Feds reviewing Ohio police shooting of unarmed black man
CINCINNATI (AP) — Two years after a white Ohio police officer fatally shot an unarmed black motorist in the head, the case is in the hands of federal authorities.
Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters says prosecutors have already given information to the U.S. attorney for southern Ohio, Benjamin J. Glassman, who said he will review the Ray Tensing case to determine the potential for prosecution on civil rights charges.
An attorney for Sam DuBose’s family said they have drafted letter and other materials for federal authorities to consider.
DuBose’s sister Terina Allen said Tensing violated the 43-year-old DuBose’s civil right to life when the then-University of Cincinnati officer shot him during a traffic stop July 19, 2015.
Tensing, now 27, testified he feared being killed by DuBose’s car when DuBose tried to drive away.
After two juries deadlocked, Deters announced Tuesday he wouldn’t try Tensing a third time but hoped federal authorities would take the case.
Defense attorney Stewart Mathews said news of the federal review has tempered Tensing’s and his family’s relief that he won’t face a third murder trial.
“So that means that it is not over,” Mathews said.
Federal intervention in such cases dates to the 19th century Reconstruction era, when federal authorities moved to protect newly freed black people from being victimized when local authorities wouldn’t or couldn’t protect them.
DuBose family attorney Al Gerhardstein said the federal review offers a chance “to hold the officer accountable when the state system couldn’t. This is the very reason that federal criminal civil rights laws exist.”
Among such cases are the 1991 police beating of black motorist Rodney King in Los Angeles, which resulted in jury convictions of two officers on civil rights charges, and the federal convictions of police and others linked to the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers that inspired the movie “Mississippi Burning.”
More recently, former police officer Michael Slager awaits sentencing in South Carolina after pleading guilty in May to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights by shooting him without justification during a traffic stop. Prosecutors plan to ask for about 20 years behind bars. A jury last year deadlocked on the state murder charge.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said when Slager pleaded guilty that the Justice Department would hold accountable those officers who violate civil rights and “abuse their sacred trust.”
Glassman offered no timetable, but Deters noted that such federal reviews can move slowly.
Glassman and the Justice Department last week announced the conclusion of their probe into the Aug. 5, 2014, fatal shooting of John Crawford III. In that case, police responded to an emergency call about someone waving a rifle in a Wal-Mart store in Beavercreek, Ohio. Police said that when they confronted Crawford, 22, he didn’t obey commands to drop what they learned later was an air rifle off a store shelf.
The Justice Department said investigators analyzed store surveillance video using resources at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia; interviewed witnesses and used an independent crime scene reconstruction expert.
The department concluded it lacked enough evidence to disprove the officer’s account that he shot Crawford out of fear of death or serious injury and to prove the officer meant to violate Crawford’s rights.
The 2014 fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black youth with an Airsoft gun that shot plastic pellets, in Cleveland remains under federal review.
Associated Press reporters Lisa Cornwell in Cincinnati and Mark Gillispie in Cleveland contributed to this story.
Follow Dan Sewell at http://twitter.com/dansewell