With the declaration of a second mistrial in the case against University of Cincinnati Police Officer Raymond Tensing for the fatal July 2015 shooting of Samuel DuBose on Friday, three police officers have managed to escape prison sentences in high-profile, police-involved killings of black people.
A Hamilton County, OH, jury, the Associated Press reported, was deadlocked in rendering a verdict on the murder and voluntary manslaughter charges brought against Tensing, forcing Judge Leslie Ghiz to declare a mistral on Friday. The deliberations lasted for 30 hours over five days. “We are almost evenly split regarding our votes,” the jurors wrote in a note to the judge.
Friday’s mistrial in Ohio follows the acquittal on Wednesday of former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown in the 2016 death of Sylville Smith, and St. Paul, MN, police officer Jeronimo Yanez walking free last Friday from the killing of Philando Castile. As these cases confirm, it’s exceedingly rare—even with video evidence, as all three contained—for police officers to be convicted of murder in fatal shootings.
Tensing, who was 25 at the time, had pulled DuBose over for driving without a license plate a few blocks away from the University of Cincinnati campus. DuBose was unable to produce a driver’s license. In footage released from Tensing’s body camera worn during the encounter, Tensing asks DuBose to remove his seatbelt and begins to open his car door. In a matter of seconds, DuBose can be seen closing the door and attempting to restart the car; Tensing can be seen shouting for him to stop before firing a single shot into DuBose’s head.
As in similar criminal trials involving videos depicting police officers firing their weapons and killing people, the case hinged on the seconds before—and moments just after—the officer opened fire, and whether they were acting purely in self-defense.
“I meant to stop the threat,” Tensing reportedly told jurors last week. “I didn’t shoot to kill him. I didn’t shoot to wound him. I shot to stop his actions.”
Tensing had initially claimed he fired his gun because his arm was caught in DuBose’s steering wheel and that he was being dragged by the car; that claim was later contradicted with frame-by-frame analysis of his body camera footage by the prosecution. The officer testified that he “misperceived” his arm being caught in the steering wheel. His attorneys maintained that he feared for his life.
“We are talking about 2.83 seconds of action on that video that have led us all to be here for all this time,” Stew Mathews, one of Tensing’s defense lawyers, told the jury. “You have to try to put yourself into the position of an officer on the scene of a situation like this and ask yourselves, ‘What would I do?’”
A witness called by the prosecution wound up throwing a wrench in its case, when a Cincinnati police sergeant who investigated the shooting testified that the she believed Tensing “may have been determined to be justified” in shooting DuBose.
According to the AP, the hung jury consisted of nine white people and three black people; the deadlocked jury in Tensing’s first trial, in 2016, was made up of 10 white people and two black people. DuBose’s family, according to a statement to the news agency, is pushing for a third trial.
As Audrey DuBose, Samuel DuBose’s mother, left the courtroom in Ohio on Friday, the Cincinnati Inquirer reported, she said, “God’s will is sufficient.”