Authorities were on alert and school officials took precautions Thursday as jurors deliberated a second day in the Ohio murder trial of a white former police officer who said he feared for his life before fatally shooting an unarmed black man during a traffic stop last year.
At least two Catholic schools in Cincinnati were closed and a Cincinnati Public Schools spokeswoman said the district was in “constant communication” with authorities in anticipation of a verdict in the trial of Ray Tensing.
The fired University of Cincinnati police officer said he feared for his life when Sam DuBose tried to drive away after being stopped for a missing front license plate on July 19, 2015. Prosecutors want jurors to conclude the 26-year-old Tensing “purposely” killed DuBose.
Police and emergency response agencies activated their regional operations center to monitor and share information about any violence. Ahead of trial, city officials met with civil rights and faith leaders. The city was hit by rioting in 2001 after the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black youth.
The case has attracted demonstrators, including Black Lives Matter activists, outside the Hamilton County courthouse, and is among others across the nation that have raised debate about how police treat black people.
Jurors resumed deliberations Thursday after being sequestered overnight by Hamilton County Judge Megan Shanahan following more than four hours of jury deliberations Wednesday.
They also have the option of convicting Tensing of voluntary manslaughter, meaning he killed the 43-year-old man in a fit of rage or sudden passion after being provoked.
The prosecution said evidence including Tensing’s own body camera video contradicted his story of being dragged by DuBose’s car.
“The video is the ultimate witness ... this video exposes Tensing's lies,” county Prosecutor Joe Deters said during closing arguments.
He said Tensing and his lawyer became “almost comical with their word games,” calling shooting DuBose “stopping the threat” and saying he “perceived to be dragged.”
But defense attorney Stewart Mathews insisted Tensing was trying to keep from being run over.
“He was in sheer terror,” Mathews told jurors. “The evidence is very clear that a car can be just as deadly as a gun or knife.”
He said prosecutors tried to use race as “a smokescreen.” They pointed to Tensing’s T-shirt worn under his uniform that day. The "Great Smoky Mountains" shirt had a Confederate flag on it. Mathews said it had “no evidentiary value.”
Deters told jurors Wednesday that “emotions are high,” but they must decide based on the facts.
Tensing wept on the stand Tuesday. He said his arm was stuck in DuBose’s car at the time and the car was turning toward him.
Deters asked Tensing about an outside report that eight out of every 10 drivers that 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 wasn’t racist.
Witnesses testified that DuBose had significant amounts of marijuana and cash on him, which Mathews described as a reason why he was desperate to flee.