By Ginny McCabe
CINCINNATI (Reuters) - A former University of Cincinnati police officer charged with murdering a black man during a traffic stop said on Tuesday he acted in self-defense, fearing he would be killed if he did not shoot.
Officer Ray Tensing, 26, said in Cincinnati's Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas he would have been run over or pinned against a guard rail by Samuel DuBose, 43. Tensing stopped DuBose in July 2015 for driving without a front license plate.
"I remember thinking 'Oh my God, that he is going to run me over and kill me,'" Tensing, who is white, told the court.
Tensing earlier pleaded not guilty to murder and has been free on $1 million bond. If convicted, he could face life in prison.
An emotional Tensing paused multiple times as he was questioned by his attorney, Stew Mathews, and at one point wiped tears from his eyes.
Body camera video of the stop showed that Tensing shot DuBose in the head after pulling him over. The entire incident lasted a few minutes.
Tensing asked DuBose to take off his seatbelt and tried to open the car door, but DuBose did not comply and closed the door. The vehicle started rolling forward slowly as Tensing pulled his gun and fired once.
Tensing said Tuesday he did not intend to kill DuBose when he fired, and that DuBose "mashed the accelerator" while Tensing's arm was inside the car, dragging him down the street.
The killing fueled demonstrations over what protesters said was unwarranted lethal force by Tensing. There have been nationwide protests over excessive force by white officers against unarmed blacks and other minorities.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said on Tuesday that Tensing's story was not supported by evidence.
Tensing was also asked by Mathews about a black T-shirt he wore under his uniform on the day of the shooting, which featured a Confederate flag.
Tensing said the shirt was a gift and the flag had no meaning to him.
The court was shown footage from Tensing's body camera of multiple other traffic stops he made on the day of the DuBose shooting. All of the stops occurred without incident when the drivers complied with the officer.
DuBose's relatives were unmoved by Tensing's emotional testimony.
"His tears don't mean anything when you are lying every word," Terina Allen, DuBose's sister, told reporters afterward.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday.
(Writing by Ben Klayman and Timothy Mclaughlin; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)