CINCINNATI – A white University of Cincinnati police officer said an unarmed black motorist was dragging him with his car and he feared he would be run over when he fired a single shot that killed the driver, according to the police incident report released Thursday.
That was the first statement by UC officer Ray Tensing to be made public about his shooting of Sam Dubose, 43, after a traffic stop in Mount Auburn on Sunday. Another UC officer backed up Tensing's account.
Tensing's radio call, also released Thursday, includes the officer shouting with alarm:
"Shots fired! Shots fired! ... We need a medic now!"
Then he clarifies for dispatch that the medic is not for him.
"No, I'm not injured. I almost got run over by the car. He took off on me."
Gasping for breath, Tensing says:
"I discharged one round. (Pause). Struck the male in the head."
Another UC officer responding to the scene, Phillip Kidd, said he witnessed Dubose's 1998 Honda Accord dragging Tensing and Tensing firing one shot, according to the incident report. Another responding officer, David Lindenschmidt, apparently did not contribute to the report.
"It was unclear how much of this incident OIT Lindenschmidt witnessed," the report said.
The officer who filed the report, Eric Weibel, said he observed Tensing after the incident and wrote: "I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if he had been dragged over a rough surface." He said Tensing, 26, complained of pain in his left arm.
Weibel said he was patrolling the East Campus about 6:29 p.m. when he heard Tensing cry out on the radio.
"Tensing began screaming over his radio, 'Shots fired, shots fired," Weibel wrote. Weibel said he drove south on Vine to Thill street and located Tensing and Dubose a block away at Rice and Valencia streets.
"Officer Tensing stated he was almost run over by the driver of the Honda Accord and was forced to shoot the driver with his service weapon (Sig Sauer P320). Officer Tensing stated that he fired a single shot," Weibel wrote. "The vehicle came to a final stop at the corner of Rice Street and Valencia Street. From outside the vehicle I could see a black male motionless with a gunshot wound to his head."
Cincinnati police soon arrived, pronounced Dubose dead and took over the scene, Weibel wrote.
Dubose's longtime friend, Nygel Miller, was skeptical of the report, calling it untrue.
"I’m trying to figure out how you can be drug by a vehicle and get your weapon -- right it to shoot -- at the same time," Miller said.
State Sen. Cecil Thomas wondered why the UC Police Department didn't indicate Tensing was dragged from the beginning.
"If there’s nothing to refute that -- if the officer’s being truthful and honest -- then clearly the video, his body camera, would verify that,” Thomas said.
In related developments Thursday:
> Prosecutor Joe Deters said he would not release the body cam video of the shooting until the grand jury has seen it. Deters' office released a statement after about 20 people protested outside his downtown office.
> UC President Santa Ono tweeted that he asked Deters to share the video with Dubose's family.
> Speaking at the protest, Thomas, a former police officer and city council member, said he sees a "groundswell of anger" developing like the one that led to the 2001 riots because of the Dubose killing and Deters' refusal to release the video.
> UC said its police will no longer patrol off campus or conduct off-campus traffic stops like the one that ended tragically for Dubose.
WCPO EDITORIAL: Show us the video now.
Tensing shot Dubose after pulling him over for a missing front license plate on his vehicle. Dubose had been pulled over more than a dozen times for a missing plate, records show.
At a Monday news conference, UC Police Chief Jason Goodrich said Tensing and Dubose had struggled after Dubose refused to exit his vehicle and Tensing was knocked to the ground. There was no mention of a struggle or Dubose refusing to exit his vehicle in the incident report.
Some community members questioned what Tensing was doing away from campus when he stopped Dubose. According to Weibel's report, Tensing first observed Dubose on West McMillan Street, which borders the campus.
"In the time it took Officer Tensing to run the plate and receive information regarding the registered owner, the Honda had traveled to Vine and Thill streets," Weibel wrote.
In light of the shooting, UC said Thursday its police will restrict operations to the campus even though a mutual-aid agreement, signed by interim city manager Scott Stiles in December 2013, allows UC officers and a host of other law enforcement agencies to work outside of their jurisdiction.
UC launched the Block by Block Safety Ambassador program in the spring to patrol the nearby Short Vine and U Square districts near campus as part of an ongoing effort to reduce crime in the area.
"This is an area we've had frequent issues with and one with frequent patrols," Goodrich said Monday.
Now Cincinnati police will conduct more patrols around the campus, UC said.
Cincinnati Officer Killed While Being Dragged By Car
In 2000, Officer Kevin Crayon tried to stop a 12-year-old driver from pulling out of a UDF parking lot into traffic. Crayon reached through the window to grab the keys and the driver took off onto Colerain Avenue with Crayon holding on. With the car dragging him at high speed, the officer drew his gun and shot and killed the driver. The car went out of control and Crayon fell to the roadway, slid across the pavement, and struck a car at Colerain and North Bend Road, killing him instantly.
Tensing was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, which is standard procedure.
Tensing didn't have any trouble or misconduct in his personnel files at UC or his previous employer, the Greenhills police department. according to personnel reports released to WCPO.
"Ray Tensing was a good police officer for us," Greenhills Chief Neil Ferdelman told WCPO's Tom McKee on Wednesday. "There were three performance evaluations on file for him. Two of those were 'meets standards.' One was 'exceeds standards.'
"My recollection of Ray is a very friendly guy, very approachable, very interested in law enforcement."
There are no indications that Tensing ever pulled or fired his gun in three years on the job at Greenhills or 15 months at UC before killing Dubose.
At UC, Tensing was rated satisfactory or superior in nine performance factors in his last evaluation on April 9.
Tensing graded high in officer safety – including maintaining control of his weapons and situations he's involved in, and being prepared to use necessary force. He also graded high in traffic enforcement. He graded satisfactory in attitude – including tolerance, friendliness and impartiality. But he never graded lower than satisfactory.
He "only meets standards when it comes to community service," his reviewer said. "I would like to see him interact more with the public outside of traffic enforcement."
According to court records, police pulled Dubose over 13 times between 1995 and 2009 for only having one license plate. He was charged four times between those dates. He was also charged with driving under suspension eight times between 2005 and 2011.
Dubose had been charged with more than 55 offenses. Some charges escalated beyond traffic violations, including drug abuse, domestic violence and assault. It is important to note that being charged with a crime does not mean that someone is guilty. In many cases, court documents show Dubose paid his fines. The two assault charges were dismissed.
At a Wednesday news conference, Mayor John Cranley said "license plate pullovers should not result in the loss of life" and Ono announced that UC would reform its police procedures and consider entering into Collaborative Agreement between Cincinnati police and the Justice Department. That brought changes to use-of-force policy and new training and transparency following the 2001 riots.
"We will be reviewing - comprehensively - training, policies and procedures and making sure we are applying best practices in everything we do," Ono said.
Ono said UC was prepared to release the video immediately but followed Deters' directive to withhold it while the deadly confrontation was still under investigation.
"We were prepared to release the video as an institution, but we are really following the integrity of the process, and it's really a matter for the prosecutor of Hamilton County to decide the timing of that release," Ono said.
This was the first officer-involved shooting with a University of Cincinnati police officer in at least 14 years, according to records. In 2011, a campus officer used a Taser on a student who later died.