The recent shooting of Samuel DuBose by a University of Cincinnati campus officer has barely made national news, even in the era of increased awareness of police brutality and murder of black lives, but all of that is about to rapidly change here in the Queen City.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said he's confident police are ready for whatever happens this week after prosecutors release video of a fatal shooting by a University of Cincinnati police officer.
Cranley said city officials are preparing for the video's release, as well as the conclusion of a grand jury investigation, in two ways: They are making sure police have the resources they need to respond to any protests or unrest, and they are reaching out to community leaders to prevent trouble from getting started.
"I think we're prepared," Cranley said Tuesday. "Everyone has the right to peacefully protest, but we will not tolerate lawlessness."
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters has said he expects the grand jury investigating the shooting to complete its work this week, at which time he will announce whether UC Police Officer Ray Tensing will be charged with a crime and also will release video of the incident from the officer's body camera.
Tensing shot and killed Samuel DuBose, 43, during a traffic stop on July 19. The officer stopped DuBose at Rice and Valencia streets in Mount Auburn for having a missing front license plate.
Many questions remain unanswered. The police incident report said Tensing was "dragged," but there was no mention of the dragging in the police dispatch call. Deters has refused to release video of the incident until the grand jury's work is done, saying it is part of the investigation.
Cranley and other city officials say they have not seen the video, but City Manager Harry Black said Monday he has been briefed on what it shows.
"My reaction is that it is not a good situation," Black said. "Someone has died that did not necessarily need to die."
The various reactions by Mayor Cranley, Police Chief Blackwell, and City Manager Black tells me that 1) the body camera video is explosively bad, and 2) that there's little question that Officer Ray Tensing is in a world of trouble. For this administration to go into damage control mode before the video is even made public tells me Cranley, Blackwell, and probably the city council as well are all terrified of the city's reaction to this, and after the 2001 protests they are painfully aware of what can go wrong.
Cranley in particular is arrogant, even when he's beaten, full of bravado and noise. You have only to look at how he's the champion of Cincinnati's streetcar program after running on killing the streetcar two years ago. Now Cranley's acting like he's the voice of reason and is the one making the streetcar "work" when it would otherwise be a mess. He's more than happy to take credit for "reforming" it these days.
But for Cranley to go into damage control mode publicly without being pushed by protesters and national press? Cranley's not even attempting to fight this. I don't think Cranley is overreacting at all, because I think the body camera video of the stop must clearly show that Tensing murdered DuBose.
Usually you have local governments prevaricating and qualifying things, "I can't comment on an ongoing investigation" or "We're still looking at all the evidence" or "You'll have to talk to UC President Santa Ono about this", and for Santa Ono to be openly talking about reforming the campus police rather than having to be forced into reforms and the defense attorney for the University saying that he expects an indictment is amazing. Remember, 99% of the time police are never convicted of murder of citizens, especially black citizens, and the trial is just for show.
This is starting to look like it might be the 1% where justice actually happens. The Cincinnati Enquirer is suing for the release of the video but the news now that the grand jury expects to wrap up this week is very strange and almost too orderly. It's like the entire city administration is getting out in front of something horrific that hasn't gone public yet. This just doesn't happen, even with Cincy's history of reform, and Chief Blackwell's crusade to make the police more accountable. You always deny deny deny and circle the wagons, not, you know, do the right thing.
All we can do now is await the video's release later this week, and I'm betting it's going to put Cincinnati in a very, very harsh national spotlight. But maybe that spotlight will see justice done for Samuel DuBose.
[UPDATE] Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters is holding a press conference on the DuBose shooting at 1 PM, followed by Mayor Cranley and Chief Blackwell giving a press conference at 2 PM.
University of Cincinnati is cancelling classes today starting at 11 AM ahead of the press conference, which means that that grand jury decision may very well be coming down this afternoon, plus the video.
More later today.