CINCINNATI (AP) — The lead prosecutor and defense attorney Tuesday offered sharply conflicting views of what a police body camera video will tell jurors about what happened when a white officer fatally shot a black man during a 2015 traffic stop.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said the video shows that Ray Tensing was lying when he said he was in danger of being dragged to death and that the now-fired University of Cincinnati officer acted contrary to police standards and the law with he shot an unarmed Sam DuBose.
Attorney Stewart Mathews said the prosecution interpretation was so different from his, it was as if they watched different videos. Tensing was facing death or serious injury from “a 3,000-pound car that he (DuBose) turned into a weapon,” Mathews told jurors.
“Our renditions and our belief in the truth could not be more different,” Deters told reporters after opening statements concluded in the murder trial. Testimony that will include expert testimony about the video begins Wednesday.
Tensing, 26, pulled the 43-year-old motorist over for a missing front license plate. Deters said it was a legitimate traffic stop that was follow by a shooting that “was not legitimate … it was murder.”
He said Tensing had drawn his gun and aimed at DuBose’s head before the car even moved.
“The car moved a little more than a foot, and Tensing shot Sam DuBose, causing his death in seconds,” Deters said.
Mathews said DuBose had mashed the accelerator down when Tensing reached inside to try to grab the car keys, and the officer felt himself going down. He said officers who were arriving for backup will testify they heard tires squealing.
Tensing, fired last year by the university, appeared to be watching the jurors closely and taking notes during the opening statements.
Before they began, jurors were taken to the scene. Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan cautioned them that what they saw isn’t evidence and that conditions at the scene could have changed.
“The only purpose of your visit is to help you understand the evidence as it will be presented to you in the courtroom,” Shanahan said.
The jurors, whose identities are being shielded, didn’t get out of the sheriff’s vehicles with dark-tinted windows. Deters confirmed that a makeshift memorial to DuBose was removed from the scene before the visit to avoid influencing jurors.
The jury of two black women, four white women and six white men was seated Monday. Four white women were added as alternate jurors after a day of questioning by attorneys who urged jury candidates to put aside race, news stories and police perceptions for the case.
Black Lives Matter activists criticized the racial makeup of the jury in a city which the 2010 U.S. Census showed had a nearly 45 percent black population. They have been part of demonstrations outside the courthouse.
Shanahan on Tuesday rejected a defense motion to move the trial to another county.
The trial in Ohio and one that began on Monday in Charleston, South Carolina, for another white former police officer facing a murder charge for the shooting of a black man are among cases over the last two years that have increased attention to how black people are treated by police in the United States. The two shootings occurred after traffic stops.