Tensing's former UC police supervisor: 'My heart goes out to Ray'

Tensing's former UC police supervisor: 'My heart goes out to Ray'
Samuel DuBose (Provided)
Samuel DuBose (Provided)
Ray Tensing as he arrived for court during his trial earlier this month. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Ray Tensing as he arrived for court during his trial earlier this month. (Cincinnati Enquirer)
Everette Howard (FOX19 NOW/file)
Everette Howard (FOX19 NOW/file)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - One of Ray Tensing's former supervisors at the University of Cincinnati Police Department spoke out exclusively to FOX19 NOW Tuesday.

"My heart goes out to Ray because I know right now he's got to be feeling so low," said Rick Haas, who retired in June 2016 as a UCPD lieutenant. "He's still got friends who believe in him and still stand with him."

The interview came just hours after Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Tensing, 27, would be tried for the second time on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Tensing shot and killed Samuel Dubose, 43, during an off-campus traffic stop in 2015.

The first trial ended with a deadlocked jury and mistrial.

Tensing testified he feared he was going to be killed. Deters has repeatedly said the evidence contradicted Tensing's story and insisted he murdered DuBose.

Haas, 61, worked at UCPD for 14 years until this summer. He said he was one of Tensing's supervisors from the time Tensing was hired in 2014 until the day of the tragic traffic stop.

Tensing impressed Haas, a U.S. Marine for 26 years, as soon as Tensing first interviewed with the department.

Haas described Tensing as a "model" officer who was a proactive, natural leader among his peers.

He said he went to Tensing when he needed to get a point or tactic across to other officers. Haas said he knew he could always trust and depend on Tensing to convey the message to his fellow officers.

The Tensing he knew wasn't quick to pull his gun - or one to judge people based on race, he stressed.

It came out during the trial that Tensing wore a Smoky Mountains T-shirt with an image of the Confederate flat underneath his uniform the day he killed DuBose.

Haas said he never knew what was under officers' uniforms because it was out of sight.

UCPD requires officers to wear and supply their own black undershirts under their uniforms and bulletproof vests.

Officers use old T-shirts because they get "soaked with sweat," Haas said, echoing Tensing's testimony.

Tensing explained on the stand a relative gave him the shirt, one he said had no meaning to him as he grabbed it out of the laundry when he dressed for work on July 19, 2015.

"I've never known Ray to be racial in the first place," Haas said. "I've never heard him say anything about blacks, whites or anybody else. He was strictly by the book."

Haas said Tensing had compassion for people and often helped those he encountered.

He believes Tensing would have shown that compassion to DuBose had he been given the chance.

"But Mr. DuBose, with his actions, Ray reacted to his actions and henceforth, a horrible situation," Haas said.

Tensing led UCPD in the number of stops, citations and arrests in the year he was patrolling city streets, according to the latest report on the department by Exiger, an outside investigator.

He also had the highest racial disparity among those he stopped than any other UC officer, the report stated.

But, according to Haas, the entire police force was encouraged to keep up aggressive patrols by the then-police chief who was following a directive from his university bosses.

Tensing, Haas said, "was on a fast track to become a field training officer. He had a lot of knowledge. He knew what he was doing.

"He was a great officer....He did have compassion for people. He did help people. He would help people.  But, when he saw something illegal, he felt he needed to do something about it and, unfortunately, it turned out the wrong way."

Haas was not working the day Tensing shot DuBose and said he didn't speak with him in the aftermath.

UC immediately fired Tensing when a Hamilton County grand jury indicted him 10 days after the shooting.

The state police union is appealing the termination on Tensing's behalf. That is on hold while the criminal case works through the courts, the union president said.

Haas concedes now that Tensing made tactical errors during the traffic stop. A big one: reaching into DuBose's Honda Accord to try to grab the keys out of the ignition.

But, overall, Haas said he felt Tensing "handled the situation very professionally, I think."

Haas said he has closely followed the case since the start. He remains steadfast in his unwavering support for his former colleague.

"I'm sorry that it happened. I'm sorry the situation turned out the way it did," Haas said. "I was in shock at first. I couldn't believe it. I thought 'OK, if Ray was involved in this shooting, something bad had to happen.'"

Haas said he knows, to a certain extent, what Tensing has been going through.

Haas was involved in an on-duty use of force incident five years ago that left an 18-year-old North College Hill High School graduate dead and prompted UC to pull their officers' Tasers.

In August 2011, Haas Tased Everette Howard Jr. in the chest when Haas, who was an officer at the time, was called to respond to a dispute on campus among teens over a hat.

The teen collapsed and was pronounced dead at  University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

"It was horrible," Haas recalled. "To see someone die over something stupid like that, it's gut wrenching."

No charges were filed against Haas, and Deters announced the use of force was justified.

At the time, Everette was living in a UC dorm while attending the university's Upward Bound Program, which is designed to prepare children from low income families for college.

Everette had a bright future. He had earned a wrestling scholarship that fall to the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.

The teen's family sued UC and Haas, asking for financial compensation and Taser reform. Their suit alleged Haas unjustifiably stopped and Tased their Everette without warning.

They received a $2 million settlement, and UCPD stopped using Tasers as a result.

Haas holds firm to this day that his actions back in 2011 were appropriate given the level of threat he felt at the time.

"I was told there was no one behind me and I heard a bunch of racket behind me and when I turned around there were two people behind me," Haas recalled. "So now I notice now I am in between two groups, and you don't want to be in the middle of two hostile groups.

"I was trying to get those two groups on the ground and Everette was just pounding the concrete with his fist. I was like 'what in the world is wrong with this guy?' I started yelling 'get on the ground!'  One of the guys got on the ground, but Everette didn't and then all of a sudden he just stood up and came right at me.

"I told him several times to stop or I was going to Tase him. So Everette kept coming and I kept telling him to stop. I let him get a little too close, but I really wanted him to cooperate. So I Tased him at about 6 feet away from me, and that's when  he hit the ground."

Haas said he still remembers how he felt. He went through so many investigations, he lost count. He said he was cleared every single time.

Meanwhile, it seemed all the media reports about the incident were full of inaccuracies.

"I wouldn't go to my computer. I wouldn't read what was being put out because generally, when any incident first starts, most of the information that comes out is wrong. Then, when it finally does get out, you have all the armchair quarterbacks who want to put in their two cents worth in.  And none of them have ever been through the situation.

"All they do is sit around and do what they like to do whether it's sit around and watch TV or whatever, but they are not out there as police officers living through that type of a situation.

"And of course, they're all throwing their two cents in, which is usually just their conjecture of how much they hate the police officer that did what he did or he should have done this or he should have done that. So, I just left it alone."

The ordeal, Haas lamented, was hard as well on his family, particularly his wife and his grandchildren.

The youngsters were too scared to speak up and defend him.

"My grandkids, they weren't going to say anything at school because everybody would have looked at them 'oh, yeah,  your grandfather is a killer.' So they never said anything, which was fine. My kids, they were older, so they were OK with it. My wife was pretty upset."

He spent two years on administrative leave.

"I did everything by the book and was brought back at full duty," he said.

Haas went on with his law enforcement career and was promoted to lieutenant.

But killing the teen will always haunt him to a certain extent.

"It eats away at you at night. You have your nightmares," Haas said. "You go through your PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and stuff and this is something you can't train police officers for.

"I was a Taser instructor, but I only used my Taser once because I didn't like to use the Taser. If I could get by without using it, I would," he said. "That night I couldn't.

"You'll never get over it. You can eventually live with it, but you'll never get over it," he said.

"When you kill somebody, it just tears you up. It's not a normal human function. People are not made for that. They don't want to do that. Those that do, there's something wrong with them."

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