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Monday 24 October 2016

US police officer pleads not guilty to driver's murder

Published 30/07/2015 | 19:52

Ray Tensing appears in court in Ohio (AP)
Ray Tensing appears in court in Ohio (AP)

A white US police officer who shot a black motorist after stopping him over a missing licence plate has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.

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The July 19 death of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati, Ohio, comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers.

Officer Ray Tensing, 25, appeared at his arraignment wearing a striped jail suit, with his hands cuffed behind him.

When Judge Megan Shanahan set bond at one million dollars, people in the courtroom audience cheered and the judge rebuked them. The judge rejected the defence attorney's contention that Tensing was not at a flight risk.

Tensing's attorney Stewart Mathews said that there are two sides to the case and that the much-viewed body camera video of the stop can be interpreted differently from the prosecutor's version.

Mr Mathews described Tensing, who is due back in court in August, as "very depressed" and "in shock at this point," adding that Tensing has felt "like he's been run over by a train from the state of the case and it continues".

Tensing, who could face up to life in prison if convicted, has said he thought he was going to be dragged under the car and "feared for his life," according to Mr Mathews.

Authorities so far have not focused on race in the death of Mr DuBose. But city officials who viewed video footage released from Tensing's body camera said the traffic stop should not have led to a shooting.

"This officer was wrong," Cincinnati police chief Jeffrey Blackwell said, adding that officers "have to be held accountable" when they are in the wrong.

Mr DuBose's family has urged the community to remain calm, as it has in a series of demonstrations since the shooting. Tensing had stopped Mr DuBose for a missing front licence plate, which is required in Ohio but not in neighbouring states.

Mr Mathews has said that a video from the body camera of a police officer who arrived right after the shooting shows Tensing lying in the street after he had gotten free of the car, but that video has not been released by authorities.

"With the political climate in this country with white police officers shooting black individuals, I think they need somebody to make an example of," Mr Mathews said.

Authorities have said Tensing noticed the car driven by Mr DuBose didn't have a front licence plate. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after Mr DuBose failed to provide a driver's licence and refused to get out of the car.

"I didn't even do nothing," Mr DuBose can be heard telling Tensing. Mr DuBose held up what appears to be a bottle of gin.

Tensing fired once, striking Mr DuBose in the head.

Press Association

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