CINCINNATI -- A petition asking Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to drop the case against Ray Tensing has thousands of signatures.
Lacy Robinson, of Hamilton, said she started the Change.org petition June 30 after following both of Tensing's trials. Two juries have deadlocked over the past eight months, resulting in two mistrials.
Robinson's petition says Deters should not try Tensing a third time for killing Sam DuBose nearly two years ago. It had 4,600 supporters by 7 a.m. Monday and needed 400 more signatures to reach its goal.
Signers have a variety of viewpoints, Robinson said, and they're sympathetic to DuBose's family.
"We don't want them to think we don't value his life, because that's not our view," she said. "We also think justice needs to be served in the correct way, and we don't feel a third trial is the way to do that."
About a quarter of supporters believe Tensing was indicted on the wrong charges, Robinson said, while others like her believe he is innocent.
Tensing was a University of Cincinnati police officer when he stopped DuBose in the city's Mount Auburn neighborhood for a license plate violation on July 19, 2015. Tensing has claimed DuBose tried to drive off with his arm caught in the door, causing him to fear for his life.
There's no question he shot DuBose in the head; instead, the trials have focused on whether the shooting was justified.
Expert witnesses have presented different accounts of whether Tensing had reason to believe he was in danger, and whether he responded appropriately.
"I think that he acted quickly, and I don't think anyone knows how they would react in that situation," Robinson said.
DuBose's family, along with several local organizations, said they believe Tensing needs to be tried for murder a third time due to racial bias in jurors, including prejudicial evidence and various decisions made by Judge Leslie Ghiz.
"Settling for anything less (than a just trial) will be a total miscarriage of justice," the family said in a joint statement read at a news conference Friday.
The Rev. M.V. Bomar, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Greater Cincinnati and Vicinity, released a statement Thursday supporting the DuBose family. The group also threatened to boycott some events and engage in a selective buying campaign "until justice is served," Bomar said.
Deters has until July 24 to decide. That's when Ghiz scheduled the next hearing. Tensing's defense team filed a motion last month to acquit him of all charges.
One of the largest obstacles in Deters' way is the fact that he cannot, at this point, add lesser charges -- charges on which a skittish juror might be more likely to convict -- to Tensing's docket. Deters said the deadline to make changes to the charges against Tensing passed weeks before his first trial even began.
The decision to bring lesser charges against Tensing was considered nearly two years ago, he said. Common Pleas Court Judge John "Skip" West reviewed evidence of the case and went to a grand jury.
At that time, charges of murder, voluntary manslaughter, reckless homicide and negligent homicide were all considered, Deters said. The grand jury returned an indictment for murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Assistant Prosecutor Seth Tieger requested the addition of a lesser charge, reckless homicide, halfway through the second trial. Ghiz denied the request.
DuBose's family blasted Ghiz shortly after the second mistrial, saying she essentially acted as a second defense attorney. Deters also criticized some of Ghiz's decisions; he said evidence of Tensing's prior good acts were allowed, but prior bad acts were barred.
Robinson said she's thought of having a vigil for DuBose because "we feel for the family," but she didn't have any specific details as of Sunday morning. Those who signed the petition don't feel comfortable holding a vigil Downtown, she said.
She also started a Support Ray Tensing Facebook page and said she's working with petition signers on the next steps. That might include "Support Ray Tensing" T-shirts and encouraging Tensing's supporters to spend money at downtown Cincinnati businesses.
For complete trial coverage, visit wcpo.com/TensingTrial.