Prosecutors in an Ohio court say that a T-shirt bearing the Confederate flag worn by University of Cincinnati Officer Ray Tensing is "relevant evidence" in the case against the ex-officer over the shooting death of unarmed black motorist, Samuel DuBose.
Tensing claimed that victim DuBose allegedly dragged him with his vehicle after a routine traffic stop over a missing front license plate in July 2015, which prompted Tensing to shoot DuBose in the head, fatally wounding the motorist.
The officer's defense team filed a motion to strike the Confederate flag T-shirt from being entered as evidence, but prosecution alleged that Tensing's "undamaged" clothing shows that the officer was not dragged by DuBose's vehicle as he initially reported. Tensing was wearing the Confederate flag T-shirt at issue underneath his uniform at the time of the incident.
Tensing's first trial resulted in a hung jury and a mistrial in November 2016.
WCPO-TV Cincinnati reported on May 2 that the retrial will go on as planned; Tensing was charged with murder and voluntary manslaughter of DuBose. Tensing's defense included that DuBose allegedly dragged him with his car and forced him to fear for his life, and he retaliated with the fatal shooting.
According to a review of the incident published by the University of Cincinnati, Tensing pulled DuBose over for the missing plate and asked DuBose for his driver's license, which DuBose claimed to not have in his possession. Tensing then reportedly ordered DuBose to remove his seat belt and exit the vehicle. When asked by the officer if DuBose's license was suspended, the motorist pulled the door closed, started the engine and put the vehicle into gear.
Bodycam footage showed Tensing reaching into the vehicle and yelling "Stop!" and then drawing his gun, shooting DuBose in the head once.
In the footage, Tensing can later be heard telling other officers on the scene that his arm was caught in the vehicle when DuBose began to pull away. Another officer identified as Phillip Kidd corroborated Tensing's report that he had seen the victim drag Tensing with his vehicle.
A day after the fatal shooting, it was confirmed that DuBose was operating the vehicle on an indefinitely suspended license, and also had multiple bags of marijuana in the car as well as $2600 in cash.
After the shooting, The Associated Press reported that 43-year-old DuBose was a rapper and music producer, as well as a father of 13 children. The AP also reported that DuBose's legal record was spotted with varying degrees of infractions, such as driving with a suspended license, failure to adhere to traffic lights, possessing unauthorized license plates, and both selling and possessing marijuana.
Previously, Tensing's defense attorney told the court that the shirt "contains nothing of evidentiary value, is irrelevant and highly inflammatory and the danger of prejudicial impact substantially outweighs any probative value, if any, that it may have."
A forensic video expert — a witness for the defense — testified that the officer's body camera footage showed Tensing drawing his weapon and pointing it at DuBose's head after he restarted his vehicle and before he attempted to pull away from the officer. The forensic expert noted that the vehicle barely moved before Tensing shot DuBose in the head.
"The defendant is putting forth a defense that his killing of Sam DuBose was legally justified," assistant prosecutors wrote. "The defense is that he was being dragged by the defendant's car. The admission of the defendant's clothing and police equipment is extremely important to show the defendant was not being dragged. The clothing shows no damage and is therefore relevant."
According to court records, Tensing's trial will reconvene Thursday.