Tensing takes the stand Friday after defense's use-of-force expert
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Former University of Cincinnati police officer, Ray Tensing, who is on trial for shooting and killing Sam DuBose during a traffic stop in 2015, took the stand to testify Friday. Stew Mathews started with questions about his education, training and why he wanted to become an officer.
He had Tensing play body cam video of three traffic stops before he pulled over Sam DuBose. Two of them were also for a car without a front license plate and a suspended driver. All ended peacefully.
Tensing told the jury how he perceived that his arm was caught in the steering well but he admitted that he realized it wasn't after watching the body camera video. Mathews asked him if he got together with UC officers Jason Kidd and David Lindenschmidt or his attorney to get his story straight. He said he did not.
Mathews asked if Tensing was telling the truth in the courtroom. "I'm telling you what I experienced, my experiences during those few seconds, yes." said Tensing. Was it your purpose to kill Sam DuBose on July 19, 2015? "No, sir. It was to stop the threat."
Tensing appeared distraught several times during his testimony, dabbing his eyes with a tissue.
Seth Tieger asked Tensing several times about his perception and what had actually happened. Instead of getting his hand caught on the steering wheel, Tensing said DuBose had actually pinned his hand.
Tieger asked him about the use of the word dragged. Tensing said he could have also used moved or displaced.
You said you became a police officer to protect and serve, Tieger asked. Tensing replied he wanted to make a difference, to go home every night after his shift knowing he made a difference that I helped someone. "How did you protect Sam DuBose that evening", asked Tieger. "I protected my life", he replied.
Tieger wanted to talk about Tensing's weapon. When he asked if Tieger meant his service weapon at UC, Tieger said "I'll call it the murder weapon". Tensing said he kept a bullet in the chamber to be ready for a fast, stressful situation.
- "Would you agree you killed Samuel DuBose, Mr. Tensing?".
- "Yes, but I did it to stop the threat."
- "You killed Sam DuBose, didn't you?"
- "You agree you purposely killed him, all the jury has to do is decided if it was justified."
Mathews objected, saying purposely is a legal concept.
Tieger asked if it was coincidence that all the people he had stopped on July 19, 2015 were African American. Tensing said that it was. When Tieger tried to bring up Tensing's traffic stop statistics during his time as a UC police officer Mathews objected. Tieger wanted what he called the highest racial disparity among traffic stop statistics introduced because Mathews had repeatedly said the shooting wasn't about race. Mathews said his it wasn't true. The judge did not allow the questioning and told the jury to disregard it.
Tieger brought up an incident when Tensing fired at a dog that he said was charging him while he was a Greenhills officer. He missed the dog. Tensing agreed to Tieger's question about it being hard to miss a moving target.
- "Is it easier to shoot and kill a human a human who wasn't moving, like Sam DuBose, who was trapped in a car with a seat belt on when you're only one to two feet away from his head?"
- "There's nothing easy about that, about what happened".
Before Tensing testified, the defense called James Scanlon as its use-of-force expert. Scanlon served as a police officer in Columbus for 33 years and now he trains others through his own company.
Scanlon went frame-by-frame through some of the body cam video. He said it was clear that Ray Tensing was being dragged by a moving car and was falling when he shot and killed Ray Tensing. He said Tensing was attached to the car.
He said DuBose raised several red flags during that traffic stop and that it quickly turned from a minor traffic stop to a major traffic stop to a life-threatening situation. "He falls on his back, defenseless and inches from the rear wheel. That's an extremely dangerous situation. I don't know anyone, especially in law enforcement, who wouldn't be in fear for their life".
The former officer was also asked about training police to not reach into cars. Scanlon said nothing in training is absolute, that there is no "never". He called the slide that was up during Scott Hughes presentation that read "never, never, never, never reach into cars" absurd. He said there are a million ways to perform a traffic stop.
Scanlon said he has never testified against a police officer. Under cross-examination, assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger tried to suggest that Scanlon is biased toward police. Scanlon denied that and said he hates dirty cops.
Tieger asked if Scanlon is a video expert. He said he wasn't but he could look at the video through the eyes of an officer with 33 years experience. Tieger pulled up the frames in which prosecution video expert Grant Fredericks said proved DuBose's car wasn't moving just before the shot was fired. Scanlon questioned the science Fredericks used as the basis of his presentation.
Tieger read Scanlon part of Stew Mathews opening statements, in particular the part where Mathews said the word dragged may not be correct. Scanlon maintained Tensing was definitely dragged by Sam DuBose's car.
The assistant prosecutor then spent a lot of time trying to poke more holes in his testimony and his report. He mentioned that Tensing asked DuBose to exit the vehicle. That didn't happen but Scanlon said it was implied. Tieger asked why Scanlon put in his report that Tensing said stop at least twice, when he's heard saying it two times. Many of the points seemed to be minor but Tieger was trying to discredit him as a witness.
The attorneys will give closing arguments Monday. Then the jury will get the case.