CINCINNATI – Ray Tensing didn't waver when he got on the witness stand Tuesday during a dramatic, emotional, final day of testimony in his murder trial.
The white former University of Cincinnati police officer stuck to the same story he told police, telling the jury he shot and killed Sam DuBose because the black motorist was dragging him with his car and he feared for his life during a traffic stop in 2015.
Tensing, 26, whimpered, dabbed his eyes with tissues and paused for deep breaths several times as he gave his version of the deadly encounter with DuBose. Later, Tensing composed himself and engaged in a confrontational cross examination by Prosecutor Joe Deters.
Deters raised the question if Tensing might be racist because Tensing wore a Confederate flag T-shirt under his uniform the day he shot DuBose and because Tensing had the highest rate of stopping minority drivers among UC officers.
DuBose's fiance, DaShonda Reid, said she didn't believe any of the emotion Tensing expressed in his testimony.
"We were at the Oscars just now," Reid said. "We was watching an actor on the stand right now. Imitating tears — tears that we’ve been crying over a year as a family — very passionate tears. Tears because we lost someone.
"He put on tears and put on an act for a jury — only a jury."
Tarina Allen, DuBose's sister, said Tensing had no regard for her brother's life.
"I think that Tensing thought as little of my brother as he thought about that Confederate flag T-shirt that he put on that morning," Allen said. "Nothing at all. He thought nothing at all about his life."
After the defense rested, Judge Megan Shanahan set closing arguments for Wednesday morning. The judge instructed jurors to bring an overnight bag in case they need to be sequestered.
During the two hours he was on the stand, Tensing never apologized, never expressed regret for killing DuBose.
Guided through his testimony by his defense attorney, Stew Mathews, Tensing insisted he was being dragged by DuBose's car, with his left hand stuck inside, as the car accelerated. Only then did he pull his gun and shoot DuBose in the head, Tensing said.
He stuck to that story even after Deters replayed part of the prosecutor's expert video analysis – a frame-by-frame breakdown of the video from Tensing's own body camera. Deters said it showed Tensing wasn't being dragged, the car wasn't accelerating and had only lurched forward about a foot, and Tensing was standing away from the car – not caught in the steering wheel - when he fired the fatal shot.
Tensing repeatedly qualified his account by saying it was "my perception" of what happened. That was something he added since he gave a statement to Cincinnati PD investigators two days after the July 19, 2015 shooting.
WATCH the prosecutor's expert testimony below:
Tensing's attorney asked him to explain why he was wearing a Great Smoky Mountains souvenir T-shirt bearing a small Confederate flag on the day he killed DuBose. Tensing said a relative bought it for him in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. He said UC officers were required to wear a black T-shirt under their uniform during the summer. He said he just picked it out of the laundry basket that day and threw it on. The T-shirt came to light during testimony Friday and led to angry reactions from DuBose's family and community leaders and on social media.
"I didn't think anything about it," Tensing testified
"Do you have any sense how offensive that T-shirt you wore that day is to the African-American community?" Deters said.
"Sir, that T-shirt means nothing to me," Tensing said.
Tensing issued 83.5 percent of his tickets to minority drivers, Deters said.
Tensing said he usually worked at night and often couldn't see who was in the car when he stopped it.
On redirect, Mathews asked Tensing if he considers himself a racist, and Tensing said, "No."
Tensing said he was on patrol south of the UC campus when he saw DuBose driving without a front license plate. He ran the number on the back plate, found the owner's drivers license was suspended, and pulled the car over.
DuBose was "nervous and acting squirrelly" and refused to show Tensing his driver's license, Tensing said. DuBose's actions raised "several red flags" and "made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up," he said.
Tensing said he opened the driver's door intending to handcuff DuBose until he could determine who he was. But DuBose pulled the door shut, put the key back in the ignition, and shifted into drive to leave, Tensing said.
At that point, Tensing said he reached through the window – against police policy.
"I was so close to the keys that I thought I had a good chance to knock the keys out of the ignition to stop him from going anywhere and to regain control," Tensing said.
But Tensing said DuBose moved too quickly.
"The car just jolted forward and while this was happening my arm — my left arm was still inside the car."
That's when DuBose took off and started to drag him, Tensing said.
"I just remember thinking, 'Oh my god, he’s going to run me over - he’s going to kill me' - and I just instinctively drew my gun."
The first defense witness of the day was a 33-year Columbus police veteran who testified that he took an interest in the case and volunteered to Mathews to serve free as the defense's expert witness. James Scanlon said he reviewed the video and concluded that Tensing's shooting of DuBose was justified and within police policies and procedures.
But Scanlon acknowledged that he's a training officer, not a video analyst, and he didn't even sync the audio and video. Under cross examination, Scanlon couldn't counter the facts demonstrated by the prosecutor's expert witness and his frame-by-frame analysis.
Assistant Prosecutor Rick Gibson dismissed Scanlon as a "lay person just like anyone on the jury."