Cincinnati mayor pledges reform after fatal shooting during traffic stop
Samuel Dubose addresses the crowd during a vigil for his father, also named Samuel. (WCPO-TV)

Mayor John Cranley held a press conference after Officer Ray Tensing shot Samuel Dubose, who was driving without a license plate, in the head


A traffic stop for a missing license plate shouldn’t end with a fatal shooting, Cincinnati mayor John Cranley said Wednesday.

Cranley pledged reform, in a press conference to address the fatal shooting Sunday by a University of Cincinnati police officer of a 43-year-old armed black man during a routine traffic stop.

Officer Ray Tensing spotted Samuel Dubose, 43, driving near the campus Sunday evening without a front license plate, according to the Associated Press. After he was pulled over, police have said Dubose didn’t show his driver’s license, produced a bottle of alcohol and refused to leave his vehicle.

Details of what transpired next remained scant Wednesday, but law enforcement authorities have said the pair engaged in a struggle before Tensing, who is white, fired one shot, striking Dubose in the head. Dubose was pronounced dead at the scene.

“As a general matter, a pullover related to a license plate should not, in the normal course of events, lead to lethal force … as it has in this case,” Cranley told reporters. “So therefore, reform is in order, and I think it’s the right thing to do.” Cranley declined to say at this point whether he believed there was any criminal wrongdoing in the incident.

Body camera and surveillance footage of the incident exists, but have not yet been released to the public. Cranley and UC president Santa Ono, who joined the mayor during Wednesday’s remarks, both said they haven’t seen the video.

Ono said he met with Cranley earlier Wednesday to discuss the university officer-involved shooting. UC has plans to become part of a collaborative agreement established by Cincinnati after the city’s 2001 riots, which began after a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man, he said. The agreement implemented new training and transparency policies and emphasized community-oriented policing, and it has been heralded by US attorney general Loretta Lynch as a model for law enforcement agencies across the US.

Ono and James Goodrich, chief of the UC department of public safety, will meet on Monday with an advisory group to discuss reform initiatives. The university chief said officers in UC’s public safety department receive the same training as municipal officers across the state.

Cranley, however, said the city’s police department will soon work with UC on best use-of-force practices – at the behest of Ono.

“We are going to provide the mentoring and the input that we have learned through hard lessons to help UC’s police department improve,” he said.

Dubose’s family members and friends have said he wasn’t a violent person, but he struggled with drug problems until about two years ago. They were concerned, however, that his lengthy rap sheet – the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Dubose has been charged over 75 times for non-violent crimes and his license was also suspended indefinitely this past January – would improperly shift attention away from the nature of the incident.

“It was unjustified,” Dubose’s mother, Audrey, told reporters Monday. “My son had no business getting killed. I would love for the police officer that did this to let me know how could he put a gun to a human being’s head, any human being, not just my son.”

City officials said the Cincinnati police department wrapped its investigation Wednesday; a county prosecutor’s probe into the incident is continuing. The prosecutor did not return the Guardian’s request for comment by deadline.

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