Prominent black minister feels betrayed by UC president's decision to release police shooting report

Rev. Damon Lynch III tells Ono to release video

CINCINNATI -- Several pastors feel betrayed by University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white UC police officer. And they're challenging Ono to defy prosecutor Joe Deters and release the officer's body cam video.

A prominent black minister, the Rev. Damon Lynch III, and a diverse group of pastors say it was unfair for UC to release the police incident report Thursday while Deters withholds the video. The pastors say the incident report only give the officer's side of the story, and they're asking Ono to release the video now – with or without Deters' consent, whether Deters sues UC or not.

"They only gave out the side -- the police officer side -- which serves to vindicate the officer and not the entire story so the community and the family can know what really happened on that fateful day," Lynch told WCPO Friday.

"We're asking UC, which still has a copy of the tape, to release it."

Following Officer Ray Tensing's killing of Sam Dubose during a traffic stop Sunday, Ono invited the pastors to meet with him Thursday and informed them that he was ordering UC police to stop patrolling off campus. Tensing pursued Dubose to a Mount Auburn street because Dubose's Honda Accord didn't have a front license plate.

An hour after the meeting, though, UC released the incident report and the police calls, much to Lynch's dismay.

Lynch emailed Ono Friday saying he felt betrayed. Lynch wrote:

 

"I have a serious problem with the public release of the UCPD officers report along with the 911 tape … It is a contradiction to put out the officer's side of the story and not release the video evidence ...

 

"If the University released the UCPD report then I personally feel betrayed by the meeting held on yesterday and I will not be attending any future meetings. If the University released the report it should now release to the public the video evidence that the family and community is demanding."

Lynch ended his email by saying: "The threat of Joe Deters to sue the university is a smoke screen."

Ono responded by phone, Lynch said.

"His response was, 'I would love to release it, but I can't.' My response was, 'I believe you can. You have the power to do that. If you can release the report, you can release the video.'"

WCPO has reached out to Ono for comment.

Other pastors who met with Ono spoke out as well.

 "We want to point out the hypocrisy of the argument that the grand jury can be tainted by the release of the video but somehow isn't tainted by the release of the 911 call and the officer's report," Pastor Chris Beard said.

Pastor Troy Jackson pointed out that Deters' office withheld video while investigating the police shooting of a black man, John Crawford III, at the Beavercreek Walmart last year.

 "The citizens of this county, the leaders in this county, the leaders in this city, acquiesce their authority and let Joe Deters call the shots. That's happening yet again," Jackson said.

"They withheld the video until after there was no indictment. We think this pattern is one that needs to stop -- not only withholding videos, but the pattern of letting a county prosecutor run this county." 

Lynch has been a long-time spokesperson and advocate for police reform. He stepped to the forefront after the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black teen, by white Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach that led to riots in the city in 2001.

Dubose's family and their supporters -- as well as the media -- have been clamoring to see Tensing's body cam video. WCPO and other media outlets announced Friday that they would sue the prosecutor's office to release the video. WCPO's editorial board called for the video's release earlier this week.

Ono tweeted Thursday that he had asked Deters to let Dubose's family see the video.

Ono said at a news conference Wednesday that he was prepared to release the video after the shooting but deferred to Deters, who said he would withhold it during the investigation. On Thursday, Deters said he wouldn't release it until the grand jury had seen it. On Friday, Deters said his office plans to complete its presentation to the grand jury by the end of next week.

According to the police incident report, Tensing said Dubose was dragging him with his car and Tensing feared he would be run over when he fired a single shot that killed Dubose.

Another UC officer responding to the scene, Phillip Kidd, backed up Tensing's account, saying he witnessed Dubose's 1998 Honda Accord dragging Tensing and Tensing firing one shot, according to the report.

Cincinnati police from Districts 4 and 5 have agreed to increase patrols in the neighborhood areas around UC's Uptown campuses, Ono said in a statement Friday.

"UC Police Chief Jason Goodrich and I will be meeting soon with city and community leaders to evaluate our patrol areas. We will be monitoring these changes on a continuing basis to make adjustments as warranted.

"The safety of the university community remains our top priority. The university’s relationship with the city remains strong, and we will continue to work together."

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