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Ray Tensing testifies that he was afraid he was going to die

Tues., Nov. 8, 2016: Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing wipes away tears while talking about what happened when he pulled over Sam DuBose. Tensing, who is charged with the murder of DuBose, took the stand in his own defense on the fifth day of witness testimony. The routine traffic stop happened July 19, 2015. (POOL, The Enquirer/Cara Owsley) Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer, is charged with murdering Sam DuBose during a routine traffic stop on July 19, 2015. Tensing's lawyer, Stew Mathews, has said Tensing fired a single shot because he feared for his life. (POOL, The Enquirer/Cara Owsley)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - An emotional Ray Tensing described how he feared for his life when he fired the shot that killed Sam DuBose. Tensing took the stand in his own defense on Tuesday.

His attorney, Stew Mathews, walked Tensing through the traffic stop on July 19, 2015. Much of it has already been said. Tensing saw that the car DuBose was driving didn't have a front license plate. He went into how he told dispatch that DuBose was "slow to stop". He described how DuBose wouldn't give him a license and pulled a plate out of the glove box.

Tensing repeatedly described DuBose as acting "squirrelly" while on the stand. He spoke of the "red flags" that DuBose gave while not following Tensing's directions. After seeing the gin bottle, he worried that DuBose was possibly DUI.

Despite the prosecution's video expert, Tensing maintained that his arm was stuck in DuBose's car and that DuBose "mashed down on the accelerator." He spoke of his fear that he was going to die that day. He told the jury that DuBose turned the car left into his body and that he was being dragged and that he'd get sucked under DuBose's car. He was afraid DuBose was going to "scrape him off the side of his car" by driving towards the guardrail.

While he was testifying, Tensing repeatedly dabbed his eyes with a tissue. A couple of times, he stopped for a moment.

Mathews ended by asking if Tensing was mad or angry at Sam DuBose. Tensing said that he wasn't.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters then cross-examined Tensing. He pointed out several times where he said Tensing's police interview and testimony did not match the body cam evidence and testimony provided by the prosecution's video expert.

Deters asked about how Tensing said DuBose "mashed the accelerator", even though he says the video shows the car barley moved. He asked about Tensing's claims that his hand got tangled up even though he says the video shows it wasn't. Deters asked about how Tensing said he shot DuBose while falling, saying sarcastically "You know this is on video, right?". To each question, Tensing answered "That's my perception".

Deters hammered Tensing on the way and direction that Tensing fell, telling him "You defied the laws of physics". That drew an objection from Stu Mathews. Judge Shanahan struck that phrase from the record.

Deters asked if DuBose saw any weapons; a gun or a knife. He said no. Deters said just the car. Tensing replied, "His 3,000 pound car, yes". Deters asked, "Did you hear when the accelerator was hit? It was after the shot, right?" The video was played again.

Deters then brought up Tensing's statistics while a UCPD officer. He asked Tensing if he knew that he led his fellow officers in the number of traffic stops and arrests? Yes, he said. Deters then asked if he knew that 83.5% of his traffic stops were of African Americans? He replied no, he often couldn't see who was driving and many of his stops were at night. Deters replied that Tensing's stops had the highest racial disparity of any UCPD officer.

He ended with a question to Tensing, "Do you know how offensive your t-shirt was offensive to the African American community?" Tensing replied, "That shirt means nothing to me".


On redirect, Mathews asked Tensing, Are you a racist? No, he replied. He followed that up with asking Tensing his definition of being dragged. Tensing replied, being pulled against your will.

Earlier on Tuesday, police trainer James Scanlon also took the stand as an expert for the defense. Scanlon says he contacted defense attorney Stew Mathews about getting involved in the case.

"If I don't believe strongly in a case, I don't get involved in it," Scanlon said.

Scanlon is also not being paid for his testimony, which is unusual for an expert. He said he was testifying for free because he believes Tensing is innocent.

Going through the body camera footage from the day in July 2015 when Tensing shot Sam DuBose during a traffic stop, Scanlon says he believed Tensing was justified in the shooting.

Scanlon went through the video frame by frame to show the jury why he believes Tensing's actions are justifiable.

Scanlon focused on one frame after the shooting to show how close the car was to Tensing while he was on the ground. He said watching the video frame by frame is what convinces him that the shooting was justified.

Scanlon also said the police interview with Tensing after the shooting is consistent with what he sees in the video.

Scanlon finished his testimony by saying Tensing's actions were reasonable, justified and consistent with police training. He also said he's reached into vehicles like Tensing did with DuBose, saying it's not encouraged, but it happens.


The prosecution took over cross-examination, pointing out that Scanlon is not a forensic video analyst and that he's not qualified to break down the video. Rick Gibson asked several questions that Scanlon couldn't answer. Scanlon reiterated that he believes Tensing was caught in the vehicle and that it was moving.

The defense also showed three body cam videos of Tensing's three other traffic stops on July 19, 2015. In two of them, Tensing noticed that a vehicle didn't have a front license plate and he ran their tags to find out the drivers were suspended, just like DuBose. In all, Tensing appeared professional and courteous. All three drivers were African-American.


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