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Ex-cop emotional as he testifies he feared for his life before fatal shooting

CINCINNATI -- A white former police officer on trial for murder testified Tuesday that he feared for his life when he fatally shot an unarmed black motorist during a traffic stop.

Ray Tensing, who was fired by the University of Cincinnati after the July 2015 shooting of Sam DuBose near the campus, also testified that the Confederate flag on the T-shirt he was wearing that day under his uniform had no meaning to him. He reportedly said the shirt was old and given to him by a relative.

The shirt Ray Tensing was wearing at the time he fatally shot Sam DuBose is submitted as evidence, Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Cincinnati. AP

Tensing broke down on the witness stand Tuesday as he described the fatal encounter, reported CBS affiliate WKRC reporter Deborah Dixon via Twitter. He said DuBose was acting nervous, and he knew something wasn’t right.

Tensing said his arm was stuck in the car and the car was turning toward him. 

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God. He’s going to run me over and he’s going to kill me,’” Tensing said. 

He said he had wanted to be a cop since high school, saying he “always wanted to protect and serve.”

Tensing’s defense rested its case later Tuesday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday. 

Last week, in testimony contradicting Tensing’s account, an expert hired by prosecutors said his analysis of the former officer’s body camera video shows the officer was not being dragged by the car.

On Tuesday, an expert defense witness testified that a frame-by-frame analysis of the body cam video shows Tensing was justified in fearing for his life because his body was “violently twisted” during the confrontation.

James Scanlon, co-owner of North American SWAT Training Association, said DuBose made “aggressive, life-threatening action” against Tensing, including turning the steering wheel sharply to the left while the officer’s arm was caught inside the car.

Scanlon noted that one of the vehicle’s tires narrowly missed running over Tensing’s foot - a scenario he said has killed some police officers.

Some police officers had testified for the defense Monday that they found Tensing looking shocked and scared after the shooting. 

Sam DuBose WKRC

Jurors spent much of the morning watching video footage of other traffic stops Tensing, now 26, had made before the shooting.

The prosecution rested Monday after a series of state witnesses testified they didn’t find any evidence to support Tensing’s claim that he was going to be dragged to death as DuBose, 43, tried to drive away.  

The university fired Tensing after his 2015 indictment on charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. The university then restructured its public safety department and made other changes in its policing.  

A firearms expert testified for the prosecution that Tensing fired his .40-caliber Sig Sauer service revolver between 1 and 2 feet from DuBose’s head, and a deputy coroner said the gunshot severed DuBose’s brain stem, causing immediate fatal injury.

The trial is taking place at the same time as a similar one in South Carolina. Former North Charleston Officer Michael Slager is being tried for murder in the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott in April 2015. That case and Tensing’s are among a series of deaths of blacks in police encounters nationwide over the past two years.

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