CINCINNATI (AP) — A white former police officer on trial for murder testified Tuesday that he feared for his life when he shot an unarmed black motorist in the head during a traffic stop and that the Confederate emblem he was wearing at the time meant nothing to him.
Ray Tensing, who was fired by the University of Cincinnati after the July 2015 close-range shooting of Sam DuBose near the campus, wept as he testified and paused at least twice during his testimony.
Tensing said his arm was stuck in the car and the car was turning toward him.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God . he’s going to run me over and he’s going to kill me,'” Tensing said.
Tensing’s defense rested its case later Tuesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
Last week, in testimony contradicting Tensing’s account, an expert hired by prosecutors said his analysis of the former officer’s body camera video shows the officer was not being dragged by the car.
On Tuesday, an expert defense witness testified that a frame-by-frame analysis of the body cam video shows Tensing was justified in fearing for his life because his body was “violently twisted” during the confrontation.
DuBose made “aggressive, life-threatening action” against Tensing, including turning the steering wheel sharply to the left while the officer’s arm was caught inside the car, said James Scanlon, co-owner of North American SWAT Training Association.
Scanlon noted that one of the vehicle’s tires narrowly missed running over Tensing’s foot — a scenario he said has killed some police officers.
Some police officers had testified for the defense Monday that they found Tensing looking shocked and scared after the shooting.
Tensing’s lawyer, Stewart Mathews, presented videos Tuesday that showed Tensing stopping two other black drivers without incident the same day as his fatal encounter with DuBose.
That led Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters to point out that eight of every 10 drivers Tensing pulled over for traffic stops were black, the highest rate of any University of Cincinnati officer.
Tensing said he was often unaware of a driver’s race, did not single people out unfairly and was not racist.
Also Tuesday, Tensing testified that the Confederate flag on the T-shirt he was wearing the day of the shooting, under his uniform, had no meaning to him.
The prosecution rested Monday after a series of state witnesses testified they didn’t find any evidence to support Tensing’s claim that he was going to be dragged to death as DuBose, 43, tried to drive away.
A firearms expert testified for the prosecution that Tensing fired his .40-caliber Sig Sauer service revolver between 1 and 2 feet from DuBose’s head, and a deputy coroner said the gunshot severed DuBose’s brain stem, causing immediate fatal injury.
The university fired Tensing after his 2015 indictment on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the July 19, 2015, death of DuBose. The university then restructured its public safety department and made other changes in its policing.
The trial is taking place at the same time as a similar one in South Carolina. Former North Charleston Officer Michael Slager is being tried for murder in the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott in April 2015. That case and Tensing’s are among a series of deaths of blacks in police encounters nationwide over the past two years.
Experts say that jurors tend to want to give police the benefit of the doubt in such cases, recognizing they have dangerous jobs that often require split-second decisions.