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Ray Tensing retrial: Shooting could be justified, ex-homicide detective testifies

Heine had 'very short' stay after investigation
Posted: 9:38 PM, Jun 09, 2017
Updated: 2017-06-10 04:13:44Z

CINCINNATI -- A former Cincinnati homicide detective who investigated Ray Tensing's fatal shooting of Sam DuBose testified Friday that she thought the shooting could be justified.

It was stunning testimony from a prosecution witness in the retrial of the former University of Cincinnati officer. And it was even stranger because Sgt. Shannon Heine noted that she lasted only a "very short" time in the homicide unit after her initial involvement in the Tensing case and had little input in filing charges against him.

"Based on my time and training with internal investigations, I thought I was looking at an officer-involved-shooting where its actions may be determined to be justified based on the events surrounding the actual shooting," Heine testified Friday over the objection of assistant prosecutor Seth Tieger.

Heine was one of two homicide detectives who conducted a videotaped interview with Tensing two days after Tensing shot DuBose during a traffic stop on July 19, 2015. Tensing was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter, but his trial last November ended in a hung jury.

Heine testified in the first trial about her interview with Tensing, and Tieger put Heine back on the stand Friday to do the same before showing the video of the interview.

But Heine's testimony took an unexpected twist under cross examination by defense attorney Stew Mathews.

WATCH Heine's testimony and Tensing's interview below:

Mathews started by asking Heine about her job experience.

She said she was in homicide for four months -- a "very short stint," she called it -- and had moved twice since then -- first to the Central Business District and then to a special unit that studies crime data and trends in order to "reduce violent crimes."

Then Mathews lowered the boom, asking about the procedure in a homicide investigation.

"When you complete your criminal investigation, do you make a recommendation as far as whether criminal charges are warranted?" Mathews asked.

Heine: "In homicide, in a regular murder investigation, usually it's pretty clear cut and we just go ahead and sign the charge ourselves. In an officer-involved-shooting, we confer with the prosecutor's office, and in the end they determine the legality of the action taken by the officer."

Mathews: "Do you get some input in that?"

Heine: "Yes, sir."

Mathews: "Did you do that in this case?"

Heine: "Not too much."

Mathews: "What's 'not too much?'"

Heine paused before answering.

"From my prior experiences in criminal investigations, I thought I was looking at something--"

That's when Tieger objected and was overruled.

Heine finished her answer and Mathews struck again.

"Is it your feelings that the officer's actions were justified?" Mathews said.

This time Tieger objected before Heine could get a word out.

"I don't think anybody should express their opinions as to the ultimate issue in this case," Tieger said.

Ghiz then called the attorneys into a two-minute sidebar. When testimony resumed, Mathews changed course.

"Sgt. Heine," Mathews said, "you indicated you are currently assigned to a unit … that monitors crime around the city and determines which areas are good and bad -- where crime is prevalent. How does Mount Auburn fit into that?"

"In the top 20 percent," Heine said.

Mount Auburn is where Tensing stopped and shot DuBose.

Heine made her comments after the jury watched Tensing's interview with Heine and another Cincinnati police detective, Terry McDuffey. Per UC police protocol, Tensing had two days to watch his body-camera video and prepare for the interview after the shooting. Heine said Cincinnati police officers in officer-involved shootings are interviewed the same day.

Tensing put his head down and rubbed his eyes as the interview was shown on a big screen in front of the defense table. He heard himself describe reaching through the open window to try to turn DuBose's car off and getting caught when he said DuBose mashed the accelerator.

"At that point, I was thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I'm being dragged by this guy's car. I don't want to die today.' I'm in fear of my life," Tensing said in the interview.

Tensing said that fear caused him to pull out his gun as he was falling.

"I'm kinda below the plane of his window, so the only shot I could see that I could take to stop the threat was a head shot," Tensing said on the video. "That's the only part of his body I could really see at that point and had a clear visual of."

Testimony started Thursday and will continue next week.

Monday's prosecution witnesses are supposed to include Grant Fredericks, a forensic video analyst, and Cincinnati police officer Jimmy Pham. Both testified in the first trial. Fredericks broke down the Tensing body-cam video into a frame-by-frame presentation. Pham testified about photos of Tensing at the hospital and of Tensing's uniform.

See all of WCPO's coverage of the trial at WCPO.com/TensingTrial.