Mistrial Declared in Case of Ohio Officer Who Killed Sam Dubose

Angela Bronner Helm
On NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, Ray Tensing is shown in his Cincinnati police uniform alongside Samuel Dubose, the unarmed black man Tensing shot during a July 19 traffic stop.
NBC Screenshot

An Ohio judge has declared a mistrial in the case of Ray Tensing, the ex-University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot and killed Sam Dubose, an unarmed black man who was pulled over for a minor traffic violation last year, according to the New York Times. The jury of 10 whites and two blacks had been deliberating since Wednesday, and on Saturday morning Judge Megan Shanahan declared the jury hopelessly deadlocked.

Tensing, 26, faced life in prison after being charged with the murder of Dubose near the university. He pulled Dubose, 43, over on July 19, 2015, for a missing front license plate.


The officer testified that his arm was stuck in the car as Dubose tried to speed away. Tensing said that he feared he was going to be killed and fired one shot, striking Dubose in the head.

At trial, prosecutors revealed that Tensing was wearing a T-shirt with a Confederate flag on it beneath his uniform.

Body-camera footage of the fatal interaction between Dubose and Tensing was released last summer. In the video, Dubose tells Tensing that he is licensed to drive but doesn’t have his driver’s license on him.

Tensions rise when Tensing asks Dubose to take off his seat belt, apparently to arrest him. Dubose, who said, “I ain’t even do nothing,” starts to turn on the car’s ignition.


Tensing yells, “Stop! Stop!” and then thrusts the weapon through the open car window and fires a single round.

Tensing was fired by the university after his indictment.

According to the Times, a report by a risk-consulting firm hired by the university said that the video showed that Tensing was not being dragged, that the car had barely moved before the gunshot was fired and that Tensing had made several critical errors—including drawing his gun and reaching into the car.


In January the university agreed to pay $4.85 million to Dubose’s family and provide an undergraduate education to his 12 children.

The Washington Post reports that in an interview shortly after the killing, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters told reporters, “This is the first time that we’ve thought this is without question a murder.”


The officer, Deters said, “wasn’t dealing with someone who was wanted for murder. He was dealing with someone who didn’t have a front license plate. This was, in the vernacular, a pretty chicken-crap stop. I’m treating him like a murderer.”

On Saturday morning, interim University of Cincinnati President Beverly J. Davenport released a statement via Twitter.


“We remain steadfast in our commitment to building a just community anchored in trust, care, integrity and equity,” Davenport said in the statement. “Our campus and our community will come together to listen, to heal and to partner for positive and lasting change.”


Hours after the mistrial was declared, demonstrators briefly blocked Cincinnati’s downtown streetcar line, shouting, “I am Sam Dubose!”

Protestors chanting "I am Sam Dubose." #SamDubose @wcpo #TensingTrial pic.twitter.com/75N3o4r512

— Libby Cunningham (@WCPOLibby) November 10, 2016

As The Root previously reported, Tensing had been accused of overly aggressive police stops in the past.


Jurors were reportedly leaning toward convicting Tensing on a lesser charge but couldn’t agree. Judge Shanahan has set a new hearing date for Nov. 28 to determine whether the case will be retried.

Read more at the New York Times and the Washington Post.

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