A group of about 30 gathered outside Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters' office today to demand release of tapes showing events that led up to the death of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed by University of Cincinnati Police July 19 in Mount Auburn following a traffic stop for a missing front license plate. 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."
The Cincinnati Police Department has finished its probe into the shooting, but Deters says he’ll hold much of that evidence, including multiple videos of the incident, not releasing it to the public despite public records requests from local media, including CityBeat. University of Cincinnati officials indicated a willingness to release those videos during a news conference yesterday, but Deters says making that evidence public would jeopardize the chances of a fair trial for the officer involved, should charges be brought against him. Deters released a statement soon after the protest saying the law is on his side.
"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," the statement said. "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 sometime next week and present his findings to a grand jury. University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shot and killed 43-year-old Dubose after a traffic stop initiated because Dubose didn’t have a front license plate. Dubose was driving on a suspended license. According to the official police line of events, 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. Since that time, information has trickled out about the killing, though not nearly enough for Dubose’s family, friends and activists who have staged a number of protests demanding answers about the death of Dubose, who was the father of 13 children.
Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."
Recently, Deters has been embroiled in controversy over his statements calling people his office prosecutes “soulless” and “thugs" after unrest on July 4 that resulted in items being thrown at police officers and the beating of an Indiana man by several men near Fountain Square.
Meanwhile, protests around Dubose's death have been peaceful so far. But tension 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. The tension has an especially profound history in Cincinnati, which suffered days of civil unrest following the 2001 police shooting of unarmed Timothy Thomas. Though Cincinnati Police have undergone reforms since that time, instituting a nationally renowned plan called the Collaborative Agreement, pain remains here. Thirty-one people have died at the hands of police since 2000 in Cincinnati, including three high-profile deaths this year.
"I'm not sure I can continue to hold the anger down," said State Sen. Cecil Thomas, who evoked memories of 2001 at the rally today. "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 Walmart 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 convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine 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. The prosecutor that was dealing with the Beavercreek situation was assigned from this office here. That begs the question — will this same prosecutor be assigned here if there is an indictment? We have to keep the pressure on, but we're going to be peaceful."