Man Pulled Over For #DrivingWhileBlack Shot Dead

Indrani Sengupta
Missing license plates don't lead to shooting deaths. Failure to obey shouldn't end in a shooting death, and certainly doesn't in the case of white citizens. So why did it here?

A routine traffic stop ends in death for black driver.

You probably think we’re talking about Sandra Bland, who was pulled over for failing to signal while changing lanes, leading to a struggle, arrest, and jailhouse death. 

But we’re not. Less than two weeks after Bland’s death, Samuel Dubose was pulled over by a white University of Cincinnati campus police officer, as he was missing a license plate at the front of his car. 

Like history repeating itself. Except this time, there was no arrest in between the traffic stop and the death. Dubose and Officer Ray Tensing struggled briefly before Tensing shot Dubose square in the head. Dubose didn’t even have time to exit the vehicle before he was dead.

Yes, Dubose resisted. When Tensing asked him to produce his drivers’ license, Dubose allegedly refused, instead pulling out a bottle of alcohol and handing it to the cop. 

But at what point do we stop blaming the disproportionate number of cop-on-Black-citizen shootings on “Black resistance,” and start recognizing the reverse impact? What repeated incidents of racially-motivated discrimination and brutality does to members of the Black community. How distrust in the police, and a desire to defend against expected abuse, corrupts these interaction between (white) cop and Black citizen. 

Yes, Dubose resisted. Perhaps Tensing even felt threatened. But did any of that justify the degree of violence—shot in the head—that Tensing inflicted?

What’s more, we’re talking about a campus police officer, not even affiliated with the Cincinnati Police Department. Was the gun even necessary? Do Black people have to fear the campus cop now, too? What’s next? The vigilante?

But that’s happened already. With Trayvon Martin.  

Dubose is remembered by friends, neighbors, and relatives as a non-violent man. He was a father to thirteen children, and was engaged to be married. A neighbor, Hadassah Thomas, says:

"Everybody in the community loved Sam. He was so helpful, and he was always around. He used to baby-sit for my daughter. He didn't carry a gun, so why did he get shot?"

Dubose’s mother spoke at a vigil held for her late son:

“It was unjustified. My son had no business getting killed. I would love for the police officer that did this to let me know how could he put a gun to a human being’s head, any human being, not just my son.”

Dubose’s nine-year-old son, Samuel, spoke through tears:

 “He was coming home that night and we had a projector so we were going to watch a movie on it. But we didn’t get to do that because he died.”

“He didn’t do nothing at all.”

Read more: A Routine Traffic Stop Ends In Jailhouse Death For Sandra Bland