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Tensing: I Shot To Stop The Threat

Cara Owsley
Ray Tensing, the former University of Cincinnati police officer, testifies on the seventh day of his retrial.

Former UC police officer Ray Tensing took the stand in his own defense Friday at his retrial. He's charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter for the 2015 shooting death of Sam DuBose during a traffic stop.

A tearful-looking Tensing said it was not his purpose to kill Sam DuBose but rather "to stop the threat."

He says he's thought about the incident "every moment for the last two years" and has replayed it in his mind "millions of times."

Tensing explained how he always knew he wanted to be a police officer, becoming a police explorer, getting a criminal justice degree, joining the Greenhills Police Department, and nearly joining the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

Tensing told jurors about how he was sitting in his patrol car along Vine Street when he saw a car coming south with no front license plate. He ran the back plate and learned the car was registered to someone with a suspended license, so he decided to initiate a traffic stop. When the driver, now known to be Sam DuBose, didn't pull over right away, Tensing radioed the driver was "slow to stop."

On cross-examination Tensing said he didn't know his fellow officers had heard that radio call and were responding to the scene.

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
Terina Allen, Sam DuBose's sister, is comforted by her mother, Audrey DuBose, while listening to Ray Tensing testify.

Tensing said Sam DuBose's demeanor – acting evasive and stalling when asked questions – made him think "something else is going on here."

As the incident unfolded, Tensing said, he believed his arm was pinned between DuBose's and the steering wheel. He felt himself falling and the car moving into him, he testified. Then he perceived he was being dragged.

Tensing's attorney took great care to paint his client as a good officer. Jurors viewed body camera videos from the three traffic stops Tensing made before pulling over DuBose. The videos show Tensing as courteous and professional, turning on the air conditioning for a person he detained, following procedures, and even allowing a man with five warrants to go free with a notice to appear in court.

Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger's questioning of Tensing was intense, starting with asking Tensing about why he wanted to be a cop.

"I wanted to serve," Tensing replied.

"How did you protect and serve Sam DuBose that evening, Mr. Tensing," Tieger challenged.

After a long pause Tensing replied, "I protected my life."

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
Tensing's mother, Amy Tensing, looks on as her son is on the stand.

Teiger wasn't done. He challenged Tensing's testimony and multiple portions of his statement to police after the shooting, comparing them to testimony from by video expert Grant Fredericks.

Tensing disagreed with Fredericks' conclusions that the car wasn't moving or turning into him.

"I mean no disrespect to Mr. Fredericks, but he was not there experiencing what I was going through."

Finally, after nearly two hours of testifying, Tieger asked Tensing when he found out Sam DuBose was dead. Tensing said he was told at the hospital where he was taken shortly after the shooting.

If that was the case, Tieger asked, "Why didn't you ask Sam DuBose how he was?

"I was in shock," Tensing replied.

A few moments later Tieger continued, "You didn't say one word about the person you just shot in the head… about his condition, did you?"

There was another long pause before Tensing replied, "no, sir."

"You knew he was dead at the scene, didn't you, Mr. Tensing?"

"I did not know."

Credit Cara Owsley / Pool
James Scanlon, use of force expert, testifies on the seventh day of Raymond Tensing’s retrial Friday, June 16, 2017.

Earlier in the day, defense use of force expert and retired Columbus police officer James Scanlon testified there were many red flags during the Tensing/DuBose traffic stop.

The encounter escalated he said, "from non-compliance to an act of resistance to an act of aggression."

Scanlon said it was clear to him that Tensing would've been in fear for his life.

"My opinion is that the actions of Officer Tensing were reasonable, justified, and in accordance with recognized police practices," Scanlon said.

The prosecution attempted to punch holes in Scanlon's testimony during cross examination.

Assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger repeatedly pointed out parts of Scanlon's report that appeared to either contradict his testimony or were incorrect.

Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday.

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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.