A WHITE police officer who shot a black motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front licence plate has been indicted on murder charges in the United States.
A prosecutor said officer Ray Tensing had “purposely killed” 43-year-old Samuel DuBose.
Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictment at a news conference to discuss developments in the investigation into the 19 July shooting of Mr DuBose by the University of Cincinnati police officer.
His death came amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers.
The US authorities have not indicated whether race was a part of the current investigation.
According to the authorities, Tensing spotted a car being driven by Mr DuBose and missing the front licence plate, which is required by Ohio law. They say Tensing stopped the car and a struggle ensued after Mr DuBose refused to provide a driver’s licence and get out of the car.
Tensing has said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot at Mr DuBose. He fired one shot, striking his victim in the head.
But Mr Deters dismissed Tensing’s claim that he had been dragged by the car and suggested he should not have pulled Mr DuBose over to begin with.
“He fell backward after he shot [Mr DuBose] in the head,” Mr Deters said.
On footage released from the body-camera video, the officer can be heard asking for Mr DuBose’s driver’s licence several times, with the motorist at one point saying he had one. Later, Mr DuBose says: “But I don’t think I have it on me.”
Tensing asks him to unbuckle his seatbelt. At about that time, Tensing pulls on the door handle, and Mr DuBose puts his hand on the door to keep it closed. Then the video becomes shaky, but a gunshot can be heard and Mr DuBose appears to be slumped in the seat before the car rolls away, coming to a stop at a nearby corner.
The victim’s family had been pressing for release of the video, and news organisations had sued Mr Deters to get it released under Ohio open records law, but the prosecutor released it before any ruling had been made.
The University of Cincinnati said it had sacked Tensing after his indictment. The officer turned himself in on Wednesday afternoon at the Hamilton County Justice Centre and was processed on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Tensing’s attorney, Stewart Mathews, did not return phone messages seeking comment after the indictment announcement.
Mr Mathews said earlier on Wednesday that he thought an indictment was likely “given the political climate” and comments made by city officials. But he added that, given the evidence he had seen, he did not believe there should be an indictment.
Mr Deters called the shooting “senseless” and “asinine”.
“He purposely killed him,” he said. “He should never have been a police officer.”