Tensing: 'I fired at him because I thought he was going to kill me'

Tensing: 'I fired at him because I thought he was going to kill me'
Ray Tensing gets emotional on the witness stand. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Ray Tensing gets emotional on the witness stand. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Ray Tensing testifying at his murder trial Tuesday. (FOX19 NOW)
Ray Tensing testifying at his murder trial Tuesday. (FOX19 NOW)
Ray Tensing is sworn in before he testifies Tuesday. (FOX19 NOW)
Ray Tensing is sworn in before he testifies Tuesday. (FOX19 NOW)
FOX19 NOW
FOX19 NOW

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Ray Tensing testified to defend himself in his murder trial Tuesday, the first time he publicly told his story since he shot and killed Samuel DuBose in a 2015 traffic stop.

He became emotional on the stand at times. He cried, sighed, used a tissue and asked the judge "Can I have a minute?"

Tensing, 26, never wavered in his original story, that he fired his gun at DuBose because he thought DuBose was going to run him over with his car and kill him, but he did add Tuesday it was his "perception" he was being dragged and would be killed.

"I felt my body moving with his car, he was picking up speed, I remember hearing the RPMs climbing and his engine revving," Tensing said.

"I was just thinking my legs are gonna get sucked into his car, he's gonna run me over, I'm gonna die on this street today."

His attorney, Stew Mathews, asked Tensing if he meant to kill DuBose, 43.

"Were you mad at Sam DuBose or angry?"

"No, sir," Tensing said.

"Was it your purpose to kill him?"

"No, sir."

Tensing and the jury watched body camera video from three previous traffic stops Tensing was involved in before he pulled DuBose over.

Two of the stops were for drivers whose cars didn't have front license plates. All were off-campus. Tensing said all officers had been instructed to make traffic stops in areas surrounding UC's campus, in what was called a "no-fly zone" for criminals.

In fact, Tensing said his entire beat as off campus.

The video showed Tensing was courteous with each driver, and in one stop involving a black woman, let her go without writing a ticket. All of the drivers complied with him.

He handcuffed one man after learning the man had outstanding warrants for his arrest.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters questioned Tensing under cross examination.

He played Tensing's body cam video of the shooting twice as Tensing stood in front of the video monitor that showed the car didn't accelerate until after the gunshot.

DuBose's family, who were in court, gasped as the video was played. They told reporters they didn't think Tensing's testimony was genuine and compared it to an awards show performance.

"You do realize that none of the eyewitnesses support your story of being dragged?" Deters asked him.

"Sir, they weren't in my position," he responded.

Deters noted that Tensing had the highest number of stops, citations and arrests at UCPD and the highest racial disparity.

Tensing responded he can't see who he's pulling over during traffic stops.

Deters asked Tensing about the T-shirt with a large image of the Confederate flag that Tensing wore under his police uniform on that day.

"Do you have any sense how offensive that T-shirt is to the African-American community?"

Tensing responded: "Sir, that T-shirt means nothing to me."

Earlier, Mathews began Tensing's testimony by also asking about the T-shirt.

Tensing explained UCPD require officers to wear black undershirts. He said he used old T-shirts because officers get "soaked with sweat" under their bulletproof vests.

A relative gave him the shirt, one he grabbed out of his laundry as he dressed for work that day, thinking nothing of it, he said.

"It has no meaning to me," he testified. "I never thought anything about it."

Tensing said DuBose was "slow to stop" when he pulled him over on Rice Street. He exited his police vehicle, approached DuBose's car and introduced himself as a UCPD officer.

He said DuBose did not respond when he asked his name. DuBose took keys out of the ignition to open the glove box where the front plate was. He acted "nervous" and squirrely," Tensing said.

DuBose handed him a gin bottle, told him it was air freshener, that "set off further alarms" and struck Tensing as odd, he testified. He said he put the gin bottle on the roof of the car because he wanted to deal with DuBose, who was still acting odd.

After Tensing got off the stand, his lawyer asked Hamilton County Judge Common Pleas Court Megan Shanahan to acquit Tensing on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.

She said no and also ruled against his second request to allow the jury to hear about DuBose's medical records, toxicology report and criminal record.

Before Tensing testified, his lawyer called a law enforcement expert to the stand.

James Scanlon, who has 33 years as a police officer, conducts training for police and military across the country. He said he "went looking" for this case and was shocked at how quickly it was put before a grand jury that resulted in indictments.

He said he was not being paid to testify and is participating in the trial because he believes Tensing is innocent.

Scanlon showed Tensing's body cam video frame-by-frame, saying DuBose presented several "threat indicators" with his conduct.

DuBose putting his arm over Tensing was a "serious, life-threatening" act, he said.

He said Tensing was hung up in DuBose's Honda Accord when Tensing fired a shot from his handgun. DuBose was fatally shot in the head.

"I would be in fear of my life if I was in the situation," Scanlon testified.

Scanlon was the first defense witness the prosecution has opted to cross examine in an intense exchange that turned heated.

Assistant Prosecutor Rick Gibson twice called Scanlon a "lay person" and got Scanlon to concede he is not a video expert in a cross that quickly turned heated as Scanlon did not dispute Tensing's claims.

Scanlon said "we'll never know" when Tensing pulled his weapon and, at the time of the shooting, Tensing was hung up in the vehicle, which was accelerating rapidly.

Gibson and Scanlon disagreed over whether Tensing "lunged" into DuBose's car.

Scanlon testified it wasn't a "lunge," it was a "reach."

Court took a brief break while Scanlon reviewed Tensing's police interview as prosecutors tried to dig up Tensing's video statement to find where Tensing told police he "lunged" into DuBose's car.

When testimony resumed, their exchange remained heated with Scanlon saying he was sure DuBose's vehicle was going forward and to the left.

Gibson pulled out and used the frame-by-frame analysis of Tensing's body cam video that a prosecution forensic video expert played in court when he testified last week in an attempt to tear apart Scanlon's claim that DuBose's vehicle was accelerating rapidly.

The video expert, Grant Fredericks, testified the car was moving a split second before Tensing' fired the shot.

Scanlon said Tensing was "thrown violently" when DuBose took off and turned left into Tensing before Tensing shot him.

Scanlon insisted Frederick's video analysis would not change his conclusion that Tensing's shooting of DuBose was justified.

The prosecution rested Monday after calling several witnesses who testified they didn't find evidence to support Tensing's claim that he was being dragged to death.

Also Monday, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Megan Shanahan announced one of the four alternate jurors quit over safety concerns that jurors' 25-page questionnaire were going to be released to the media.

She also said she was reversing her Friday order to release redacted versions of the questionnaires that would have shielded their identities and other personal information. She is investigating whether she can continue to shield the documents even after the trial ends.

"I want you to feel safe," she assured the jurors.

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