Sheriff's Office: We're ready for Tensing trial

Published: Oct. 20, 2016 at 1:22 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 3, 2016 at 1:22 PM EDT
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Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil watches as Major Charmaine McGuffey addresses reporters...
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil watches as Major Charmaine McGuffey addresses reporters Thursday. (FOX19 NOW/Amber Jayanth)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil and his staff said Thursday they are ready for arguably their highest profile case yet: Ray Tensing's murder trial for the shooting death of Samuel DuBose.

Security will be unprecedented and extremely tight on the fifth floor of the Hamilton County Courthouse when the former University of Cincinnati police officer 26, goes on trial starting Tuesday for DuBose's July 19, 2015 fatal shooting.

Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan's courtroom is a small one with just 20 seats, so public access will be limited, sheriff's officials said.

Up to 100 people can watch the trial on a livestream set up inside Courtroom B at the Hamilton County Justice Center, 900 Sycamore St. That's located across the street from the courthouse.

"We will be livestreaming every moment of the trial," said Major Charmaine McGuffey, who runs the justice center for Neil.

McGuffey, however, encouraged the public to stay home and watch the trial on television.

FOX19 NOW will carry parts of it live on air and livestream its entirety on the FOX19 NOW news app.

McGuffey said the sheriff's office, which handles courthouse security, is ready to handle the trial, one that is expected to draw considerable national attention.

It is a rare police use of force case that resulted in a law enforcement official charged with murder - and the incident was captured on video.

The sheriff's office had a practice run on the stepped up security Friday when Tensing made his first court appearance in more than a year.

Black Lives Matter is expected to protest during the trial with interfaith groups planning prayer services.

When asked if courthouse and jail workers underwent drills to respond to possible violence, Neil would not discuss specifics.

But he did say they are prepared, have handled high-profile cases before and the staff is trained for it and ready.

"We recognize the rights of all individuals to protest peacefully outside of the courthouse," the sheriff said. "However, no protests will be permitted inside the courthouse or other county buildings. There are ongoing court proceedings in other rooms and we must provide a safe and secure environment for the justice system"

Tensing pulled over DuBose for driving a vehicle with a missing front license plate. The traffic stop occurred off campus in Mt. Auburn and was captured on Tensing's body camera.

Minutes after stopping DuBose, Tensing shot him in the head.

Tensing's attorney has said the former officer was being dragged under the car as DuBose, 43, tried to drive away.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, however, has said he is so outraged over the incident he will assist in Tensing's prosecution.

He has said he thinks Tensing lost his temper because DuBose wouldn't get out of his the car.

Deters released video showing the shooting when he announced Tensing's indictment in a lengthy press conference 10 days later.

"When you see this, you will not believe how quickly he pulls his gun and shoots him. It's so senseless," Deters said.

An independent report about the shooting UC commissioned concluded that DuBose's car accelerated only after he was shot and his foot pressed down on the gas pedal.

Tensing has pleaded not guilty and remains is free on $1 million bond.

He has not publicly spoken about the shooting or given media interviews.

Tensing will take the stand to testify on his own behalf, his lawyer has said.

If convicted, Tensing will face the possibility of 15 years to life in prison.

UC officials announced he was fired the day he was indicted.

The shooting prompted university officials to initiate a voluntary reform that has dramatically changed the way the campus police department operates.

There is new police and public safety leadership, a new policing strategy and new data used to track officers' performance and to hold them accountable.

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