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VIDEO: US police officer charged with murder after motorist shot

Ray Tensing
Ray Tensing

A University of Cincinnati police officer who shot a motorist during a traffic stop over a missing front licence plate has been indicted on murder charges.

Prosecutor Joe Deters announced the grand jury indictment at a news conference to discuss developments in the investigation into the July 19 shooting of 43-year-old motorist Samuel DuBose by Officer Ray Tensing.

Authorities have said Tensing spotted a car 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.

Samuel DuBose

Tensing has said he was dragged by the car and forced to shoot at Mr DuBose. He fired one shot, striking Mr DuBose in the head.

But Mr Deters dismissed Tensing's claim that he was dragged by the car and suggested that he should not have pulled Mr DuBose over to begin with.

"He fell backward after he shot (DuBose) in the head," Mr Deters said.

A warrant was issued for Tensing's arrest. Mr Deters said Tensing could either turn himself in or officers could arrest him.

Tensing's attorney, Stewart Mathews, said earlier that he thought an indictment was likely "given the political climate" and comments made by city officials. But Mr Mathews said given the evidence he has seen, he does not believe there should be an indictment.

Mr DuBose's death comes amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans, especially those killed by officers. Mr DuBose was black while Tensing is white. Authorities have not indicated whether race was a part of the investigation.

Mr Deters called the shooting "senseless" and "asinine".

"He purposely killed him," Mr Deters said. "He should never have been a police officer."

The prosecutor also said he thought it was time to reconsider the university police department's role.

"I don't think a university should be in the policing business," Mr Deters said.

The university said earlier this week it plans an independent review of its police department's policies.

The University of Cincinnati closed its main campus in anticipation of grand jury action in the case. If convicted, Tensing could face up to life in prison.

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT