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Cincinnati Officer Suggests DuBose Shooting Was Justified

Cara Owsley
Cincinnati police Sgt. Shannan Heine testifies on the second day of Raymond Tensing's retrial in Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz's courtroom Friday, June 9, 2017.

A Cincinnati police officer suggested Friday she thought Ray Tensing was likely justified in shooting Sam DuBose, leading assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger to object saying "I don't think anybody could ever express their opinion to the ultimate issue in this case."

Indeed, that point is the central question at play in the retrial of Ray Tensing for the death of Sam DuBose.

Sgt. Shannon Heine was testifying on the second day of proceedings. She was responsible for taking Tensing's statement several days after he shot and killed DuBose during a 2015 traffic stop.

"Based on my time and training with internal investigations," she testified, "I thought I was looking at an officer-involved shooting where his actions may be determined to be justified based on the events surrounding the actual shooting and taking into consideration the information about the prior conduct of Mr. DuBose and Officer Tensing."

The prosecution objected as Heine began that statement, and again after, but Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz let it stand.

This second day of testimony in the Tensing retrial began about a half hour late Friday morning, but questioning moved quickly through the first two witnesses.

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
Audrey DuBose, Sam DuBose's mother, left, and her daughters, Terina Allen, back right, and Cleshawn DuBose, right, listen to proceedings on the second day of Raymond Tensing's retrial in Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz's courtroom.

Tensing is charged with murder for the shooting death of Sam DuBose during a 2015 traffic stop.

DuBose's fiancé testified DuBose was driving a car registered in her name, and that the car had brake problems. DaShonda Reid said DuBose needed to keep his foot on the gas and the brake.

Defense attorney Stew Mathews sought to discredit Reid by pointing out she'd been convicted of insurance fraud around the time of the first trial. Reid replied that she's made bad decisions in her past. She attempted to continue saying "and unlike your client I know how to (own up to what I've done," but she was cut off by Judge Leslie Ghiz who instructed the comments be struck from the record.

After Reid, the prosecution called the only identified civilian to witness the shooting. A man seen in body camera video was never identified by police.

Alicia Napier was in a car parked in front of DuBose's with her two young children. She testified she was 100 percent certain she heard a gunshot before DuBose's car moved.

The crux of the defense's argument is that Tensing fired after DuBose's car began to move.

The defense characterized Napier's testimony as unreliable since she watched the events in her car mirrors, and later filled in some gaps by watching the shooting video on YouTube.

Much of the afternoon's testimony centered on Cincinnati Police Sgt. Shannon Heine who interviewed Alicia Napier late in the evening following the shooting, and Ray Tensing several days later.

Heine testified Cincinnati Police officers would not be allowed to view body camera videos before giving a statement.

"We do not show (officers) the video. We do not want a compelled statement," she said.

University of Cincinnati police are not subject to Cincinnati's policies. As per his union contract, Tensing was allowed to see his body camera video prior to giving his statement.

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
Former University of Cincinnati police officer Raymond Tensing, left, speaks with his parents before the start of the second day of Tensing's retrial.

Jurors watched a recording of that statement Friday. In it Tensing tells Heine and another investigator, "I was just hanging on for dear life when I fired the shot."

A few minutes later, he adds, "I believed at that point, when I was getting dragged by his vehicle, that he was actively trying to kill me."

Tensing's description of how he feared for his life is the basis of his defense.

During his interview with Cincinnati police he said he thought he'd been dragged about 15 to 20 feet. The defense has said Tensing feared being dragged and that he was knocked back from the car, landing on the ground.

Defense attorney Stew Mathews is also seeking to show Tensing had reason to suspect drugs may have been at play. Drugs were found in DuBose's vehicle. When asked during his initial interview if he smelled drugs or alcohol, Tensing says he did not.

Cincinnati Police criminalist Kimberly Horning also testified about how she collected and used data from the scene to create scale diagrams used in the investigation.

Courtroom observers report jurors appeared attentive and engaged throughout Friday's proceedings. That comes after one juror looked to have fallen asleep for a portion of the first day's testimony.

Hamilton County Judge Leslie Ghiz says she expects to hear Monday from a Cincinnati police criminalist, the prosecution's forensic video analyst, and if there's time, a police use-of-force expert.

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Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.