Based upon the harsh words of prosecutor Joe Deters this morning in announcing that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing was going to be charged with murder in the shooting death of Ray Dubose, I expected to see a slam-dunk video that clearly showed a cold-blooded execution.
Frankly, I don’t think that what we see in the video supports that claim, so I’m very interested to see what other evidence the Hamilton County prosecutor has that supports the murder charge, when voluntary manslaughter would appear to be the more reasonable charge under Ohio law.
Up until approximately
:51 1:52 we’re dealing with a seemingly routine traffic stop, where the man in the car, Samuel Debose, isn’t remotely combative. Officer Tensing then tells him twice to step out of the car, appears to reach into the car, and then everything becomes a blur.
Dubose appears to leaning away from the officer, but I can’t tell for sure. I cannot see any actions that I’d interpret as offensive in nature, and Tensing doesn’t appear to be making the claim that there was a “furtive movement,” in any event.
Tensing produces his gun and fires, and then seems to fall down after Debose’s car surges away. This is a key detail that lead to Tensing being charged, as he claims he opened fire because because he was being dragged by the vehicle.
Dubose’s car only makes it down the block before crashing, and the tape bounces from
:58 1:59 to 1:17 2:18 as Tensing runs down the street, only starting to stabilize as he brings his gun up and begins to scan and assess.
He stops some distance behind the car, and we see another officer come around from the right with his gun drawn, closing in on the vehicle, and the tape ends with the engine still revving the vehicle stopped by an unseen hard object.
* * *
This is clearly a “bad shoot.”
While Debose was non-compliant at the end, he did not do anything that appears to justify the use of deadly force by Tensing.
That said, not all criminal uses of deadly force are “murder,” and in Ohio we have five different degrees of culpability for death:
- Aggravated Murder
- Voluntary Manslaughter
- Involuntary Manslaughter
- Reckless Homicide
- Negligent Homicide
“Aggravated Murder” in Ohio seems to roughly line up with 1st degree murder in other jurisdictions, requiring premeditation.
“Murder” is vaguely defined, as something less than aggravated murder, but more than voluntary manslaughter.
Voluntary Manslaughter is defined as:
…the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly force, shall knowingly cause the death of another
Involuntary manslaughter is (generally speaking) the commission of a death when attempting a misdemeanor crime, and so is less than seems warranted here.
Which do you think is the most-correct charge, based upon what we know of the evidence?
Update: We now have a better copy of the video, and updated the relevant time stamps/images above.