Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has declined to release police body cam footage showing events that led up to the death of Samuel DuBose. The 43-year-old DuBose was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate.
Deters’ decision has caused controversy. A group of about 30 gathered outside the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s office July 23 to demand release of that footage. Many of those attending were family or friends of DuBose.
“We are not going away,” said his cousin, Ebony Johnson, as she stood outside the prosecutor’s office with a license plate. “We are not going anywhere until we get satisfaction and our cousin can rest in peace. I’m sure he’s not at rest, because we’re not at rest. The sooner this investigation is done and justice is served, we can rest, and you won’t hear any more from the DuBose family.”
City Manager Harry Black made comments to reporters July 27 about the shooting, saying he’s been briefed about the video and that “someone has died that did not necessarily have to die.” Black refused to elaborate further.
The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold video of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved should charges be brought against him.
“If you do not want to look at the law and just use your common sense, it should be clear why we are not releasing the video only a few days after the incident occurred,” Deters said in a statement. “We need time to look at everything and do a complete investigation so that the community is satisfied that we did a thorough job. The grand jury has not seen the video yet and we do not want to taint the grand jury process. The video will be released at some point — just not right now.”
Deters plans to wrap up his investigation soon and present his findings to a grand jury.
Officer Tensing shot and killed DuBose after a traffic stop in Mount Auburn. DuBose was driving on a suspended license. According to police, DuBose struggled with Tensing over his car door and attempted to drive away. Tensing shot him at that point and then fell to the ground, sustaining minor injuries from DuBose’s car, officials say.
Tension over the shooting is mounting, some say, fueled by distrust in a grand jury system that has failed to indict several officers who have shot unarmed black men in places like Ferguson, Mo., and Beavercreek, Ohio.
“I’m not sure I can continue to hold the anger down,” said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of Cincinnati’s 2001 unrest in Over-the-Rhine at the July 23 rally. “I’m urging him. Release the tapes and let the evidence speak for itself...We need that to bring the beginning of some closure to the family.”
Thomas pointed to cases in places like Beavercreek, where John Crawford III was shot in a Wal-mart by Beavercreek police Aug 5, 2014. Officials refused to release security tapes of the incident for months afterward, though the Crawford family and their attorneys were allowed to view them. A grand jury declined to indict Crawford’s shooter, Officer Sean Williams. Thomas said that, given those events, it’s hard for some in the community to believe justice will be served in DuBose’s case.
“We want to make sure that the grand jury sees those tapes, unedited,” Thomas said. “Right now there’s a tremendous amount of distrust as to whether they’re going to do the right thing.”