Ray Tensing, the University of Cincinnati police officer who shot a motorist dead during a traffic stop last week, has been indicted on murder charges, a prosecutor said Wednesday.
Footage from a body camera worn by the officer and released the same day shows Officer Tensing open fire on Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man, as he reached for his seatbelt – not, as the officer had earlier told investigators, after he was dragged by Mr. DuBose in his car.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictment at a news conference on Wednesday. “This is the most asinine act I have ever seen a police officer make. It was totally unwarranted,” he said.
“He purposely killed him,” added Mr. Deters. “He should never have been a police officer.”
CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll said Deters’ announcement of the indictment was remarkable. “I have never heard a prosecutor that angry and using that much emotion in describing what happened here. He all but called it a flat-out murder.”
Tensing had pulled over DuBose on July 19 for missing a front license plate. He told investigators he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot, according to a university police report, and even told a dispatcher in a radio call that the car almost ran over him.
The officer said he then fired one shot, striking DuBose in the head.
But the new video shows otherwise: DuBose appears subdued and cooperative, nervous to some degree. The prosecutor on Wednesday dismissed Tensing's claim that his arm had gotten stuck in the car, calling it “nonsense.”
The officer wasn't dragged, said Deters. “He fell backward after he shot [DuBose] in the head.”
Tensing's attorney, Stewart Mathews, didn't immediately return phone messages from the Associated Press seeking comment after the indictment announcement.
He had said earlier on Wednesday that he thought an indictment was likely “given the political climate” and comments made by city officials.
Release of the video was long anticipated. DuBose's family had been pressing for its release, and news organizations had sued Deters to have it made public under Ohio open records law.
“I realize what this was going to mean to our community, and it really broke my heart because it's just bad,” Deters said. “I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost. And I feel sorry for the community, too.”
If convicted, Tensing could face up to life in prison.
This report contains material from the Associated Press.