A white U.S. police officer who shot a black motorist after stopping him over a missing license plate pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of murder and involuntary manslaughter.
The July 19 death of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers.
Cincinnati, Ohio, Police Department Officer Ray Tensing, 25, appeared at his arraignment Thursday wearing a striped jail suit, with his hands cuffed behind him.
When Judge Megan Shanahan set bond at $1 million, people in the courtroom audience cheered and the judge rebuked them. The judge rejected the defense attorney’s contention that Tensing wasn’t a flight risk.
Authorities so far have not focused on race in the death of DuBose. But city officials who viewed video footage released from Tensing’s body camera said the traffic stop shouldn’t have led to a shooting.
“This officer was wrong,” Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said on Wednesday, adding that officers “have to be held accountable” when they’re in the wrong.
Warning: Video contains graphic scenes.
Video source: The Office of the Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney
Tensing’s attorney, Stewart Mathews, said that he was shocked that his client was indicted on a murder charge and that Tensing did not intend to kill DuBose.
Tensing, who could face up to life in prison if convicted, has said he thought he was going to be dragged under the car and “feared for his life,” Mathews said.
DuBose’s family has urged the community to remain calm, as it has in a series of demonstrations since the shooting. Tensing had stopped DuBose for a missing front license plate, which is required in Ohio but not in neighboring states.
Mathews said a video from the body camera of a police officer who arrived right after the shooting shows Tensing lying in the street after he had gotten free of the car, but that video hasn’t been released by authorities.
“With the political climate in this country with white police officers shooting black individuals, I think they need somebody to make an example of,” Mathews said.
Authorities have said Tensing noticed the car driven by DuBose didn’t have a front license plate. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after DuBose failed to provide a driver’s license and refused to get out of the car.
“I didn’t even do nothing,” DuBose can be heard telling Tensing. DuBose held up what appears to be a bottle of gin.
Tensing fired once, striking DuBose in the head.
Report by Associated Press