University of Cincinnati Cop Kills Unarmed Man Over Missing License Plate

Claire Bernish
July 22, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Cincinnati, Ohio — They should be celebrating and planning his wedding, but the family of Sam DuBose is planning his funeral, instead. This comes after the unarmed father of 13 was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati cop during a routine traffic stop on Sunday.

UC Campus Police Officer Ray Tensing decided to make the stop at 6:30 in the evening about a mile from campus when he noticed the car DuBose was driving lacked a front license plate. According to police, DuBose continued driving for about a mile before pulling over.

Police said Officer Tensing asked repeatedly to see the man’s driver’s license, but he “produced a bottle of alcohol inside the car,” instead, said University police chief Jason Goodrich in a press conference. It should be noted that police have given no indication that DuBose was either intoxicated or impaired, nor have they implied as much.

According to police, Tensing asked the driver to exit the vehicle, and at that point, “There was a struggle at the door with Mr. DuBose in the vehicle and the officer outside the vehicle, and the vehicle sped away,” stated Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. James Whalen. Cincinnati police are investigating the shooting at the request of UC police.

Tensing fired a single shot, hitting DuBose in the head. The 43-year-old, who was just engaged to be married last week, was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Cincinnati Police, Tensing fell to the ground when he fired his weapon, bruising his knees and tearing his uniform—though this description has varied somewhat in public statements from officials. He received treatment for his injuries at the hospital and has been placed on administrative leave.

DuBose was unarmed and never moved to exit the vehicle during the purported struggle. Cincinnati police typically release any video related to officer-involved shootings within 24 hours of an incident, but footage from Tensing’s body cam and a building nearby are being withheld as the investigation continues. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stressed that his office is “rapidly investigating” the events leading to the fatal shooting and expects to conclude the review by the end of next week.

While there is some contention in the fact the officer was a campus cop and the incident occurred in the city, this appears to be an accepted arrangement. UC police have an agreement of sorts with Cincinnati police since their jurisdictions somewhat overlap, which permits them to make certain traffic stops outside of campus property. Though students are their primary focus, UC police have the same credentials as other law enforcement officers in Ohio. Such arrangements, where college campus police and other departments have overlapping or less strictly defined jurisdictions, are increasingly common.

Why, exactly, this routine traffic stop of an unarmed black man suddenly turned deadly remains a matter of conjecture for now—as police have been less than generous with releasing information. Tensing has been with UC police since April 2014.
DuBose’s family is struggling to mourn their loss while dealing with the frustration of so many unanswered questions.

Na’Kiima Reid, whose mother was DuBose’s common-law wife of 16 years, told The Anti-Media in an email:

At this time our family is still at a loss due to not having our questions answered by either the Cincinnati Police Dept. or the University of Cincinnati Police Dept. The body cam that was on the officer is being withheld by the prosecutor here; and the officer has yet to give his report (although his allotted 48hr time frame to do so, has passed as of 6:30 pm today [Tuesday]). The worst part for the family is waiting to hear what happens next and WAITING for justice to be served. We are now planning a funeral when we should be celebrating a marital union. It absolutely hurts.

A prayer vigil was held Monday night at the location where DuBose was shot. Community leaders, his children, family members and others came together to try to figure out how a missing license plate could lead to tragedy.

“I would love to know what happened,” said his cousin, Ebony Johnson as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer. DuBose was recently hospitalized after being ill, she explained, adding, “He was meek and mild and so peaceful. There’s no way he could struggle and fight.”

Mainstream media quickly produced DuBose’s lengthy arrest record, which predictably led to unwarranted victim-blaming by the general public. It must be clearly emphasized, in no uncertain terms, that his record is non-violent—not to mention irrelevant to the matter at hand. Joyriding, window tinting deemed too dark, misdemeanor drug possession, and driving without a license comprise the majority of his record. He was unarmed when he was killed and was not threatening the officer’s life.

“People see an arrest record like that, and they automatically say, ‘Oh, that’s why they killed him,’” Johnson said. “It wasn’t like that. He’s never been violent.” There are numerous similar statements attesting to DuBose’s kindness and character from family, friends, and acquaintances.

An arrest record of any size or type is not, has never been, and never will be a justifiable reason for a person to die. Someone driving away from a traffic stop is also not a justification to kill them. Before snapping to judgment, the video needs to be seen and evaluated. Dubose was especially known for being a non-violent and affable man by everyone who knew him. Unfairly and unnecessarily judging a man in his death by the length of his rap sheet is not only tasteless, it’s absurdly disrespectful.

His family needs time to grieve and try to understand why this happened. They now must also deal with the unforeseen expenses of his burial and tomb stone, for which a modest fund is being raised. For information or to donate, please click here.

At the time of publication, police in the U.S. have killed at least 637 people—that is, 637 people in 202 days—and Samuel DuBose is now on that astonishing list. Regardless of mitigating circumstances, police have killed someone every 7½ hours in 2015.

This is inexcusable. There is no conceivable justification for these numbers.

In fact, there shouldn’t be a reason for a society that has managed to fit a powerful computer into a device as small as a cell phone to be forced to use that phone to tally a body count or film the brutality of the police that are tasked with the safety of the public, period.

Perhaps a solution will best be reached when we all set differences aside for the sake of our future. Even in bitter disagreement, we all have common ground. Working together doesn’t require acceptance or even tolerance—just acknowledgement that the situation could be better. Effective, positive change must start somewhere—because, otherwise, it will get worse.

For too many families, it already has. A makeshift memorial displayed a poster signed by some of Sam DuBose’s children—one of those notes read, “We miss you Daddy.”

This article (University of Cincinnati Cop Kills Unarmed Man Over Missing License Plate) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Claire Bernish and Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email

Claire Bernish joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in May of 2015. Her topics of interest include social justice, police brutality, exposing the truth behind propaganda, and general government accountability. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Ohio. Learn more about Bernish here!