Two police officers who supported the apparently false narrative given by officer Ray Tensing to justify his fatal shooting of unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose have been placed on paid administrative leave, as two new videos that seem to further damage all three officers’ original accounts were made public on Thursday.
Tensing was charged with murdering DuBose on Wednesday and city officials released video footage from his body camera that seemed to contradict the officer’s account that he shot DuBose in self-defense after being dragged by the driver's car.
On Thursday, Tensing pled not guilty to murdering DuBose and his lawyer said the charges were unwarranted. Stewart Mathews also gave a possible preview of his client’s defense, saying that the officer was knocked to the ground, dragged, and “feared for his life.”
This account—which appeared to be contradicted by the video from Tensing’s body camera that showed him firing his gun and then falling down—was very similar to the stories initially given by two of Tensing’s fellow University of Cincinnati officers on the scene, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, who have both now been placed on leave.
Furthermore, the body cameras of Kidd and Lindenschmidt—made public on Thursday—show just how quickly Tensing and his colleagues coalesced around a false narrative of how the incident occurred. The footage should serve as a powerful lesson to anyone who automatically believes the accounts of police officers in these types of shooting incidents, for which cops are rarely prosecuted.
In Kidd’s video, he can be seen chasing after DuBose’s car alongside Tensing after the fatal shot was fired and the vehicle went out of control. After the car crashes and the chase ends, you can hear Tensing say “I thought he was going to run me over.”
As Tensing appears to formulate his story, you can hear Kidd confirm it aloud. Tensing says “he was dragging me” and Kidd replies “yeah, I saw that.”
At the three minute and 30 second mark in the above video, Tensing repeats “he was dragging me, man” and then says “I just got my hand and my arm caught.” Again, Kidd replies “I saw that.” Kidd then curses and asks Tensing “what was he reaching for?” Tensing replies “He kept reaching around. I told him to step out of the car. He couldn’t produce a license.”
Tensing then says “I almost got ran over” and Kidd responds “don’t—don’t say anything,” before cursing again.
Later in the video, another officer asks Kidd if he saw Tensing being dragged and he says “yes.”
Kidd backed up Tensing’s account in the official police report of the incident. Lindenschmidt, however, was portrayed as more circumspect in that document, which says “It is unclear how much of this incident [officer in training] Lindenschmidt witnessed.”
But Lindenschmidt’s body cam video, which also starts off with him chasing DuBose’s out-of-control car, shows him supporting what appears to be a false narrative of the shooting as well.
Lindenschmidt initially asks Tensing “what’d he pull on you?” After Tensing doesn’t answer, he asks again “he pulled?” This time, Tensing responds “he didn’t reach for anything.”
At about the four-minute mark in the above video Lindenschmidt tells another officer the exact opposite, though. “He had a traffic stop, the guy took off from him. The officer got caught in his car, because the guy reached for something—he thought—and so he grabbed onto the car,” Lindenschmidt says, contradicting what Tensing had just told him. “Our officer went down, he got tangled in the car, drew his gun and fired.”
At just after the seven-minute mark, Lindenschmidt actually describes the shooting accurately, though, saying that Tensing fired before the car went dangerously out of control. (In the video, the car appears to go out of control only after DuBose had been shot when he had apparently attempted to start to pull the car away from Tensing.) “I was right behind him. He fired from right here and the guy took off,” Lindenschmidt says to another officer, getting the order of events correct.
Lindenschmidt then appears to go back to the other order: “I just arrived to back him up when the guy took off. The officer was stuck in the vehicle. Fired one round.”
At the end of the video, Lindenschmidt says “I’m going to turn my camera off” before being instructed to "keep it on for now." That's when the footage ends.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Thursday that he told DuBose’s family his office would examine what Tensing’s colleagues "said and how they said it, but I did urge them to remember that our focus is on the shooting."
In an emotional press conference on Wednesday, DuBose’s sister Terina Allen said that Tensing would not have been indicted without the video footage “because the second officer was ready to corroborate every lie that the first officer said in the report.”
The Enquirer also reported that Kidd and Eric Weibel, the officer who wrote the initial report on the incident, had been named as defendants in a 2010 wrongful death lawsuit by the family of an unarmed mentally ill man who died a few days after being restrained and tasered by police.
Weibel included what can at the very least be described as his own embellished description of how Tensing looked like his clothes “had been dragged over a rough surface” after the incident. He has not yet been reported to have been placed on administrative leave.
The Enquirer also reported that Kidd could be charged for giving a false statement.
“It was a false statement. The video evidence doesn’t support it,” Philip Stinson, a Bowling Green State University criminologist who gathers data on officer arrests, said of Kidd’s description of the incident. “There seems to be the elements of a crime there.”
The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio chairman Bruce Szilagyi seemed to support the officers in question when he said that video footage didn't always tell the whole story. “People who watch an encounter on video using the slow motion setting to determine what happened have a luxury that police on the street don’t,” Szilagyi said.“We make split second decisions. Some are right, some are wrong. but all of our decisions are made with an eye toward protecting the public and ourselves.”
Update, July 31, 2015, 5:00 p.m.: The Guardian is reporting that Kidd and Lindenschmidt will not be prosecuted for having initially corroborated Tensing’s version of the shooting.
“Two UC officers arrived on the scene as Tensing was reaching into Mr Dubose’s car. Both officers made comments at the scene but later were interviewed in depth by Cincinnati Police Officers about what they had had witnessed,” a statement from the county prosecutor’s’ office said. “In their official interviews, neither officer said that they had seen Tensing being dragged.”
“These officers were totally cooperative in the investigation and consistent in their statements,” Deters said about the decision. “[There was] some confusion over the way the initial incident report was drafted [but that was] not a sworn statement by the officers [it was] merely a short summary of information.”
“These officers have been truthful and honest about what happened and no charges are warranted,” said Deters.
If the two officers did cooperate with the grand jury honestly, as Deters has implied, and will even possibly testify against their fellow officer at trial, then that could be a justifiable reason not to charge them with a crime. It doesn’t change how disturbing their initial behavior was, though, and shouldn’t prevent their police departments from sending down even harsher punishments than have already been applied.