Even before police disclosed his name, relatives and friends of Samuel DuBose, the man killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop, had begun planting flowers and candles and sharing memories of DuBose at the corner where he died.
It was, they said, an attempt to get ahead of what has become routine in such cases: police saying they fired in self-defense, the news media digging into the deceased’s history, reports filtering out of a checkered past.
“My brother was about to be just one other stereotype,” DuBose’s sister, Terina Allen, told reporters Wednesday, after University of Cincinnati policeman Raymond Tensing was indicted on charges he murdered DuBose. “And that’s not going to happen.”
On Thursday, Tensing, who is white and who has been fired from his job, pleaded not guilty as DuBose family members lauded a system that they said rarely works for people like Samuel DuBose, a black man.
The judge set bond at $1 million, drawing applause from many people in the courtroom. Tensing has been charged with one count of murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. By evening, he had posted 10% of that amount and was freed, the Associated Press reported.
Two more University of Cincinnati police officers, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, were put on paid administrative leave Thursday pending an investigation.
According to the police incident report from the shooting, Kidd told another officer that he had witnessed the shooting, and he backed up Tensing’s statement that he fired in self-defense — a claim prosecutors say is a lie. The incident report said it was not clear what Lindenschmidt saw.
Despite the indictment and the investigation of the other officers, DuBose family members say if it weren’t for the camera on Tensing’s uniform, DuBose’s death might never have been questioned by anyone other than those who knew him.
They described DuBose, who was 43, as friendly and popular, a motorcycle enthusiast and father of at least 10 children. And though he had his problems, including previous run-ins with law enforcement, they said, he was not physically aggressive toward others.
Certainly not toward police, his sister said.
“His record, as bad as anyone wants to make it, proves he has no problem being arrested,” she said.
Public records show he had dozens of criminal citations, most of them involving driving with a suspended license, driving without insurance or other traffic violations. The last Ohio court filing was in 2012, and it seemed DuBose had not had issues with police since then, until Tensing pulled him over on the evening of July 19 for failing to have a license plate on the front of his car.
The situation escalated quickly when DuBose was not able to hand over a valid driver’s license. Tensing said he opened fire as DuBose tried to drive away and dragged the officer with him. The Hamilton County district attorney, Joe Deters, said the video showed that Tensing was not in danger.
“People want to believe that Mr. DuBose had done something violent toward the officer,” Deters said after announcing the indictment. “He did not.”
The video appears to back up friends’ and relatives’ descriptions of DuBose as not aggressive.
“Hey, how’s it going?” he said to Tensing, who greeted him in a similarly friendly manner after pulling him over, the video shows. The two bantered back and forth, their voices calm, as Tensing asked DuBose for his license and DuBose appeared to search through the vehicle for it.
At one point, DuBose handed the officer a gin bottle that Tensing had noticed in the car. About 90 seconds into the encounter, both men’s voices became tense, with the officer repeatedly asking if DuBose had a license and DuBose eventually telling him he did not have it on him.
“I didn’t even do nothing,” DuBose said as Tensing put his hand on the driver’s door handle, as if to open it, and directed DuBose to remove his seat belt.
Instead, the video shows, DuBose started the engine and a shot rang out.
A makeshift memorial quickly formed in the neighborhood of weathered homes, at the corner where DuBose’s car came to rest.
“My son was not a violent person,” his mother, Audrey DuBose, said through a megaphone at a vigil the next day.
Samuel Vincent Ramone DuBose, 9, said his father was heading over to his house to watch a movie with him when he was killed. “Nobody knew him to be a bad person,” he said at the vigil.
Others agreed. Friends said DuBose aspired to work in the music industry. Mostly, they said, he was someone that they could turn to if they needed a friend to lift their spirits.
“Everybody in the community loved Sam,” said a neighbor, Hadassah Thomas, adding that DuBose had baby-sat her daughter. “He was so helpful and he was always around.”
Hundreds of people attended DuBose’s funeral, where his mother spoke wistfully of her son.
“He was impossible,” she said. “But he brought me so much joy. As much aggravation as he brought, he brought joy.”
Tensing, 25, could face life in prison if convicted. His next court appearance is Aug. 19.
But DuBose family members say the prosecution should not stop with him. They are demanding Kidd be charged too.
“He was an outright liar,” Allen, choking back tears, said outside court Thursday. “And if it was not for this video, we’d have two police officers saying it was my brother who tried to kill a police officer.”