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Tensing murder trial opens, jurors visit street where Sam DuBose died

Jurors in the Ray Tensing trial visited the street where Sam DuBose was shot and killed by the former police officer and heard opening statements from the prosecution and defense attorneys.

By Stephen Feller

CINCINNATI, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The trial of a University of Cincinnati police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in a traffic stop last year started with jurors visiting the street where it happened, before returning to the courthouse for opening arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys.

Former police officer Ray Tensing's trial for shooting Sam DuBose in the head and killing him started Monday as lawyers for each side told jurors that details would help them determine whether Tensing "purposefully" shot the man or only did so because he feared for his life.

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Hamilton County Sheriff Deputy vans with heavily-tinted windows brought the jury -- six white men, four white women and two black women chosen Monday -- to the 400-foot stretch of Rice Street where Tensing shot DuBose in the head while trying to turn off the ignition in his car.

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The jurors were not permitted out of the vans because Judge Megan Shanahan was concerned their pictures could be taken and they would be publicly identified, which Shanahan told them she did not want to happen for their own safety.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told jurors in his opening statement the officer was correct to pull DuBose over on July 19, 2015, for not displaying a front license plate on his car, running his license plate and asking him to get out of the car to be searched.

"But what Tensing did next was not legitimate," Deters said. "It was murder. It was totally contrary to his training... It was totally contrary to the laws, in this country, regarding a justified shooting."

Deters mentioned 10 points of Tensing's account of the traffic stop that differ from footage captured on his body camera and referred to a recording of Tensing telling somebody he "meant to shoot [DuBose] in the head." The video shows Tensing's intent to kill DuBose, Deters said, as his gun was already drawn and pointed at DuBose's head before he attempted to drive away from the officer.

Sam Mathews, Tensing's attorney, said in his opening statement that DuBose was at fault for getting shot because he tried to drive away from the officer during the stop. DuBose grabbed Tensing's arm before trying to drive away and drag the officer with him, which is why Tensing shot him, Mathews said, and video of the stop shows it.

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The importance of the body camera video to the outcome of the case was emphasized by Jesse Turner, a resident of Rice Street who did not see the shooting, but saw Tensing's car speed past his house and hit a guardrail.

Turner said he saw Tensing and another officer run past his house after DuBose's car stopped. One officer turned the vehicle off and checked the DuBose's vital signs, and then he heard Tensing tell the other officer he thought he was going to be dragged alongside the car.

While Turner was asked a few questions the day of the shooting, he said nobody has spoken with him further about the case. He thinks it's weird he was never asked additional questions considering how close he was to the shooting, but he said he expects Tensing to be convicted -- with the video being what pushes the jury in that direction.

"One of the main reasons is because of that body camera," Turner said. "The video camera, it doesn't lie. So I have to have faith in that. And I try to have faith in our criminal justice system."

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