BY JAKE DINGLER (MASS ACTION FOR BLACK LIBERATION)

Samuel Vincent DuBose, known to his friends as Sam, was a rapper, music producer,  entrepreneur, and motorcycle enthusiast. More importantly, Sam was a fiancé and father with the responsibility to love and care for 13 children.  

On July 19, 2015, Sam was taken from his loved ones during a racially motivated traffic stop.  He was pulled over for missing a front license by University of Cincinnati cop, Ray Tensing. Tensing was known to have a pattern of racial bias in his career as an officer – a disproportionate number of the people who he ticketed and arrested were black. After stopping Sam on that evening, Tensing grilled him about his driver’s license, tried to open his car door, and reached into his vehicle. Sam, undoubtedly alarmed, started his car and he was shot point-blank by Tensing.

The violent killing of Sam rocked our city. Hundreds of people, including family, friends, and Mass Action for Black Liberation (formerly Black Lives Matter: Cincinnati), rallied to demand that Tensing and UC were held accountable. Under public pressure, UCPD fired Tensing, and  Hamilton County Prosecutor, Joe Deters, filed charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter.

As public outrage grew, the Countdown to Conviction Coalition was formed to mobilize local organizations and individuals to fight for justice for Sam. During the first trial in Fall 2016, thousands of people turned out to participate in and support actions for Sam. When that trial ended in a mistrial, our community made it clear that outcome was unacceptable and Deters was left with no choice but to retry the case. Disappointingly, the Summer 2017 retrial did not deliver justice for Sam and it was also declared a mistrial. Deters dropped the charges against Tensing, however the U.S. Department of Justice put the case under review for a possible federal indictment. So far, there has been no news about whether a civil rights case will be pursued.

Tensing, unsurprisingly, tried to make money off of his firing and trials. After charges against him were dropped, he immediately filed a wrongful termination suit against the University of Cincinnati. In March 2018, in truly spineless fashion, UC decided to settle out of court in a payment of legal fees and back pay, amounting to cash in a killer’s pocket to the tune of $344,230.

On July 19, 2018, three years to the day since the loss of Sam DuBose, his family and friends gathered in Burnet Woods to remember and celebrate his life. In the large green space off of Brookline Road, a steady flow of folks who knew and loved Sam came down to the picnic shelter to hang out, share stories, eat food, and listen to music. As the sun went down, several of Sam’s children decided to show the legacy Sam left behind; following in his musical footsteps they took turns singing, rapping, dancing, and beatboxing. One of Sam’s former artists even came back from California, bringing one of his current artists, both of whom performed in tribute to the DuBose family. The evening ended with a group picture, and anyone that wished to perform freestyling a cypher. The power of love and solidarity to overcome trials and tribulations was palpable in the presence of the DuBose family. Three years on, still seeking justice, this family, and those who love them embody the epitome of resilience and power.   

It is a flagrant miscarriage of justice that the family of Sam DuBose and the community has not yet seen the conviction of Ray Tensing. However, before the Tensing trial, successfully obtaining a retrial of a killer cop was unprecedented occurrence in Hamilton County, OH. Public pressure from thousands of community members made that possible. It was clear during the trials and clear now that Cincinnati has not forgotten Sam and we still want justice for him.