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Soldier's Grieving Mother in Insurance Battle With Army
Jan-13-2011 1162 1


The mother of a North Texas soldier killed in Afghanistan says the U.S. government is giving her grief over his life insurance.

Pvt. Devon Harris from Mesquite was killed in action Nov. 27 at the age of 24.

His mother, Sorainya Harris, said the Army is denying coverage that she said her son arranged.

"I'd rather have him," she said. "I really would rather have him. If he was still with me, it would make me happy. But I know he will never come back."

Sorainya Harris said her life insurance form completed two weeks before her son deployed to Afghanistan indicates that he was increasing his coverage.

Documents that she said came from her son's Army file show that he submitted a form requesting $100,000 coverage on Dec. 29, 2009. Another form that appears to request $400,000 in coverage is dated Sept. 27, 2010.

"My conclusion is that, when he filled out the second one, he wanted his policy to be increased," Sorainya Harris said. "He's being deployed. He filled this out two weeks before he left."

She said Army officials were rude and disrespectful to her when she inquired about the issue.

"Devon did everything that was asked of him -- everything," she said. "He went, and he fought, and he died in the war. He made one request, and they denied it."

A spokesman at the U.S. Army Public Affairs Office at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. said the Army does not comment on matters concerning a soldier's confidential personnel file.

Sorainya Harris wrote to U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the family’s congressman in Washington.

Hensarling spokesman George Rasley said the congressman's office is looking into the matter.




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Firefighters rescued a family trapped in a burning building in Brooklyn on Sunday, pulling a mother and her four children out of their third-floor apartment, a witness said.

The Fire Department said 12 units responded to the fire at a three-story building on E. 96th St. near Linden Blvd. in Brownsville around 12:30 p.m.
The witness said firefighters helped the children and their mother out of the apartment, as flames and smoke poured from windows on the second and third floors of the building.

Stephanie Abney, 36 lives with her four kids next to the apartment that caught fire.

“I heard screaming,” she said. “The Fire Department had to break them (window bars) to get them out. Luckily, we’re OK. Material things can be replaced, but not lives.”

The FDNY said the family was taken to hospitals, with one person in serious condition.

Authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire Sunday evening.

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KANTELE FRANKO Aug-02-2015 126 0
A year after a 22-year-old black man was killed by a white police officer while carrying an air rifle in an Ohio Wal-Mart, federal officials' review of the case remains unfinished as his relatives plan an anniversary vigil — and the region grapples with the aftermath of a different deadly police shooting.

John Crawford III was shot Aug. 5 in suburban Dayton after a 911 caller reported seeing someone at the store waving a gun. A local grand jury concluded the shooting was justified, but his family contends he was shot without a chance to respond to police.

The case and others that followed — including the deaths of 18-year-old Michael Brown days later in Ferguson, Missouri, and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in November — have fueled national dialogue about police use of force, especially by white officers against blacks. Attention again turned to southwest Ohio over the past few days as a now-fired University of Cincinnati policeman who shot a driver during a traffic stop pleaded not guilty to murder.

"It does not appear that anything has changed for the better in this past year — that we're still having a lot of police-involved shootings of young black men," said Michael Wright, an attorney for Crawford's family.

They want to see charges filed in Crawford's case and plan to voice that call as they mark the anniversary with a rally and prayer vigil Wednesday at Dayton's courthouse square.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office responsible for the Dayton area are reviewing what happened, said Jennifer Thornton, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office. She said a "review of the facts and circumstances" is continuing but she couldn't provide a timeline for its completion.

Crawford's relatives have said they hoped the federal review would include analysis of whether race was a factor in the case. Crawford was black, and the two officers who confronted him are white.

The shooting was captured on surveillance video by cameras inside the Beavercreek store, but it didn't include sound.

Police said Crawford appeared to have a real weapon and was shot when he didn't respond to orders to drop it. Investigators later determined the Fairfield man was talking on a cellphone and holding an air rifle that he had picked up from a store shelf.

Crawford's relatives and their attorneys have argued he was "shot on sight."

The family filed a federal lawsuit against Beavercreek police and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., alleging negligence and violation of Crawford's civil rights. The city and Wal-Mart have denied the allegations.

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Kristina Wong Aug-02-2015 127 0
Presidential candidate and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson said Sunday that the "Black Lives Matter" controversy is "political correctness going amuck."

"Of course all lives matter," Carson, an African American, said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Carson on Sunday defended his remarks during a rally last week, when he reportedly said, “Of course all lives matter. I don’t want to get into it, it’s so silly."

Carson said he does not recall calling the "movement" silly.

"What I called silly is political correctness going amuck. That's what's silly," he said.

At the same time, Carson said, "of course we should be very concerned about what's going on, particularly in our inner cities."

"It's a crime, you know, for a young black man, the most likely cause of death is homicide. That is a huge problem that we need to address in a very serious way," he added.

"The vast majority of police are very good people. Are there bad apples? Of course," he continued. "But if you hire a plumber and he does a bad job, do you say all plumbers are bad? Let's go out and kill them? I don't think we do that," he said.

"We need to be a little more mature, but certainly in cases where police are doing things that are inappropriate, I think we ought to investigate those promptly and justice should be swift," he said.

Carson also addressed illegal immigration, calling it "impractical" to round up 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

He said those who favor that "have no idea what they're talking about and how much that costs and how impractical that is."

Carson has come out in favor of giving them a guest worker permits, so they would have to pay back taxes and taxes going forward.

"It does not give them voting rights, it does not make them a citizen, and if they want citizenship, they get in the back of the line and go through the same process as everybody else, because we cannot neglect the people who have done it the right way," he said.

On whether that was amnesty, Carson said, "They can call it whatever they want to. But we also have to be pragmatic."

Carson also said he thought a lack of political experience is helping him as a candidate, and the fact that Donald Trump is also not a politician is helping him as well.

"It's a tremendous help. It's a tremendous aid because fewer people are talking about my lack of political experience now," he said. "And that's good because, you know, experience can come from a variety of different places."

"And certainly the life that you have led, you know, in my case, you know, solving complex problems, being involved in corporate America, starting a national nonprofit, you get an enormous amount of experience doing these things, particularly in solving problems," he added.

"It's an erroneous thought that only political experience is expedient," he said.

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Jason Silverstein Aug-02-2015 112 0
The hotheaded Texas trooper who arrested Sandra Bland days before her jail cell death had a previous complaint of “unprofessional conduct” after only a year on the job, records revealed Friday.

It’s unclear what led to that mark on Trooper Brian Encinia’s personnel records with the Texas Department of Public Safety, which otherwise rave about his job performance, ABC Chicago reported.

The “unprofessional” incident happened at a school in Austin, and led to Encinia receiving written counseling and occasional supervision, according to HR records obtained by the station.

Otherwise, the records make Encinia out to be a model cop. Under a section about “stress tolerance,” Encinia’s bosses commended him for performing “effectively and rationally” during a pursuit involving “a firearms discharge.”

His bosses also praised his “good problem solving skills and judgment,” “responsibility for any failures” and “courage” in the field.

Sandra Bland died in her jail cell days after a heated confrontation with Trooper Encinia, which led to her arrest after a traffic stop.


Encinia, 30, was caught on camera confronting Bland during a July 10 traffic stop, after he pulled over for not signaling a turn to let him pass. Dash video showed him arguing with Bland before he pulled her out of her car, threatened to use his Taser and arrested her on the ground.

Bland died in her jail cell three days later from suicide by hanging, according to authorities and an autopsy, but her family and supporters continue to doubt that story.

Encinia was reassigned to desk duty after Bland's arrest, when officials determined he violated traffic procedures during their heated encounter

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Bobbi Kristina Brown's family just can't put aside their differences – not even for her funeral.

The funeral for the only daughter of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston was held at the Saint James United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Saturday.

But the somber occasion was disrupted by feuding betwen the Houston and Brown clans – resulting in Bobby Brown's sister Leolah getting kicked out of the church.

A day prior, Leolah had accused Pat Houston of scheming to make money off the 22-year-old's death.

Leolah double-downed on her accusations in a statement to the media outside the church, after she was booted from the service for an outburst directed at Pat, according to TMZ.

"We will hunt Pat Houston from the grave," she said, wearing a white fedora, a white blazer over a black shirt and white sneakers. "It's not over. It has just begun."

She also noted that the funeral was "wonderful" until "Pat started speaking and I didn’t like that. I walked out.”

She said she yelled to Pat while she was at the dais that “Whitney is going to haunt you from the grave.”

The tension between the two families had also led them to separately attend the Atlanta wake Friday evening.

Six hundred invitations were sent out for the funeral, according to a city official. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, singer Monica Brown and actor Michael Jai White were among those in attendance.

Despite his email begging to be allowed to come to the service, Bobbi Kristina's boyfriend Nick Gordon did not attend, according to People.
The hearse arrived from Murray Brothers Funeral Home in Atlanta about an hour and a half before the service.

There was a heavy police presence at the church, with the main roads to the church blocked as cars were screened to ensure attendees were on the invitation list.

Two stretch limos and a longer procession of about 30 cars arrived about a half-hour before the service, led by nine police motorcyclists with flashing lights.

Many fans also gathered outside the church to pay their respects, with some even hoping to attend.

A pair of women who claimed to be friends of Bobbi Kristina said they were turned away by the police.

"I was one of her best friends. I met the uncle, family. Half the people there don't even know her. We hung out. We got our nails done. We did girly things," said the woman, who would only give her name as L.O.

St. James Church, located about an hour north of Atlanta, has close ties to the Houston family.

Whitney Houston was a regular at the church, and sister-in-law Pat is a member, according a family source. Bobbi Kristina also lived close by in the neighboring city of Roswell.

She is expected to be laid to rest beside her mother in New Jersey on Monday.

Bobbi Kristina passed away Sunday in hospice care after nearly six months in a coma. She was found unresponsive in her bathtub at her home on Jan. 31.

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Jimmie E. Gates Jul-31-2015 267 0
Court papers were filed Thursday in Hinds County Chancery Court on behalf of more than half of the members of the Jackson State University Prancing J-Settes dancing team suspended from the squad for the remainder of their academic careers at the university.

The Prancing J-Settes are a widely popular part of the Sonic Boom of the South marching band’s halftime show at JSU football games.

Jackson State University wouldn’t confirm nor deny the suspensions. “The Prancing J-Settes are and will continue to be an important student organization and an integral part of student life at Jackson State University. The university does not comment on internal disciplinary actions,” said Charles N. Smith, associate provost for Student Affairs.

Edna Jones Stringer, an attorney and mother of one of the suspended J-Settes, said the nine J-Settes were booted from the 16-member squad in June after a hazing allegation was made last year. They cannot have any role with the J-Settes during the remainder of their time at the school. The school also assessed a $300 fine against each student, Stringer said.

A campus security investigation found no evidence of the students engaging in hazing. However, they had to go before an Office of Student Affairs disciplinary committee hearing June 15, leading to a finding that the students violated an aiding and abetting statute by conducting an off-campus J-Settes practice.

Stringer said university officials haven’t been able to articulate a real policy that the young women violated that could lead to such a severe sanction.

“These girls were cleared of hazing twice,” Stringer said.

Parents and the students have tried unsuccessfully to get JSU officials to reconsider the decision.

An injunction petition was filed in Chancery Court on behalf of the students to try to put the sanctions on hold and allow the students to return to the squad.

Stringer said school officials have indicated the decision has been made and there is no appeal for the students left. She said school officials didn’t follow proper procedure and the students have been denied their due process rights.

“These girls haven’t done anything wrong,” Stringer said.

Stringer said she told the students to tell the truth at all times and they admitted they had gotten together outside of the normal school day and had practice once off campus. But Stringer said there isn’t anything in the student handbook bylaws to prevent the students from coming together outside of school.

Jewell Smith, one of the suspended J-Settes, said she always wanted to be a J-Settes from the time she was a young girl. “It was my dream come true,” she said.

“When I received the sanction letter, I couldn’t stop crying,” Jewell Smith said.

Jewell’s father, Wardell Smith, said they have sent letters to JSU officials and met with some officials.

“They keep saying it’s a done deal,” Wardell Smith said.He said he is a member of the Blue Bengals Club, alumni who support the university, said he said he can no longer support JSU after the ordeal.

Stringer’s daughter, Cameron, became emotional and cried as she waited for court papers to be filed.

Morgan Hightower, one of the nine ex-J-Settes, said being a member of the J-Settes was one of the reasons she chose JSU for her education.

“It hurts,” Hightower said, wiping away a tear. “It has been snatched away from us.”

Tryouts for new 2015-2016 Prancing J-Settes are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

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Jul-30-2015 204 0
Police officers in Cincinnati appear to have corroborated a false account of the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose in the immediate aftermath of the incident, a detailed analysis of body-camera video released on Wednesday shows.

DuBose, an unarmed 43-year-old black man, was shot dead by white University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on 19 July. The officer claimed he was “dragged” by DuBose’s vehicle following an altercation during a routine traffic stop, and was therefore forced to open fire, shooting DuBose once in the head.

On Wednesday, Tensing was indicted for murder after Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters said body-camera footage, which he released at a press conference announcing the charge, showed the officer was not dragged during the encounter.

“It is our belief that he was not dragged. If you slow down this tape you see what happens, it is a very short period of time from when the car starts rolling to when a gun is out and he’s shot in the head,” Deters told reporters on Wednesday.

Related: 'Senseless' and 'asinine': prosecutor's words on Samuel DuBose killing a win for reformers

The footage shows that Tensing falls back, after DuBose is killed instantly by a single shot to the head and immediately chases after the vehicle. Deters said that DuBose’s limp body likely caused the car to accelerate.

A Guardian analysis of the nearly 28 minutes worth of Tensing’s body-camera footage released by the prosecutor’s office also shows the aftermath of the shooting and reveals that on three occasions, two other police officers repeat Tensing’s account that he was dragged by DuBose, and one of these officers claims to have witnessed it occurring.

To which a second officer, who stands out of the frame, replies: “Yeah, I saw that.”

Tensing continues: “I thought I was going to get run over. I was trying to stop him.”

Then, at six minutes and 54 seconds into the footage, while Tensing is seemingly conversing with the same officer, he states: “He was dragging me, man.”

The officer replies, “Yeah.” To which Tensing continues: “I got my hand and my arm caught inside.” The officer then replies, “Yeah, I saw that.”

The identity of this officer is not immediately clear. A copy of the University of Cincinnati Police Division’s information report on the shooting names university police officer Phillip Kidd as a witness to the entire event.

The information report, written by UC police officer Eric Weibel, states: “Officer Kidd told me that he witnessed the Honda Accord [DuBose’s vehicle] drag Officer Tensing, and that he witnessed Officer Tensing fire a single shot.”

Weibel’s report continues: “Looking at Officer Tensing’s uniform, I could see that the back of his pants and shirt looked as if it had been dragged over a rough surface.”

About 14 minutes into the video, while Tensing is still at the site of the shooting, but has now moved further away from DuBose’s crashed car, he is instructed by a third officer to indicate where the altercation had started.

This officer appears to be a member of the Cincinnati police department and wears a Sgt’s lapel on his arm. He states: “You can talk about anything you want except for what happened [sic]. The only thing that I ask of you is where did it start?”

Tensing replies: “I initiated the traffic stop at Vine and Thill.”

The two officers then clarify the direction Tensing was driving. The Sgt then states: “And, it looks like you got dragged if I’m understanding, looking ...”

To which Tensing replies: “Yes.”

The Hamilton County prosecutor’s office did not reply to a question from the Guardian after Deter’s press conference over whether any other officers were being investigated in relation the incident.

A representative for the UC police referred all questions to the prosecutor’s office. The Cincinnati police department did not respond to a request for comment.

At a rally in Cincinnati on Wednesday night organized by Black Lives Matter, protester James Yaacov Delaney said he thought the responding officers should be held accountable.

“They knew and they had plenty of opportunities to change their story about what occurred and they didn’t,” Delaney told the Guardian, as rain and night fell on Cincinnati.

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Lolly Bowean Jul-30-2015 178 0
On the day he was finally released from prison after murder charges were dropped, Alprentiss Nash vowed he would use his freedom studying to become a chef, learning about antique cars and traveling.

And in the nearly three years since, he kept true to his word, visiting New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta and learning to ski at a resort in Wisconsin. He also bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and a 1960 Buick Electra 225 and completed a culinary program.

"He was really happy to be free, and he never talked about his time in prison," said Nash's mother, Yvette Martin. "He wanted to just get past it and be happy. He was overjoyed and excited about building a new life."

But on Tuesday afternoon, Nash's second chance at life came to a tragic end as he was gunned down while leaving a currency exchange in Chicago, according to Chicago police and his family. A person of interest is being questioned, authorities said.

Nash's family believes he was the target of an armed robbery.

After he was released from prison in August 2012, Nash obtained a certificate of innocence and a $200,000 payout from the state, his attorney said. And he was seeking millions of dollars in a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago and a number of police officers.

As a result of the $200,000 payout and loans against the expected settlement of his lawsuit, Nash lived the good life, dressing extravagantly and driving a nice car. It could have attracted negative attention, his attorney and family said.

"He had been robbed last year," said Nash's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, who helped him win his exoneration and was representing him in his lawsuit. "He was stressed out, and he felt pressured and that people were after him. People thought he had money."

Close Nash relatives agreed.

"I think the money attracted the wrong people, and they were watching him," said his cousin, Coby Adolph. "He worked hard to get back into society. Being locked up for so long ... he was trying to get into the swing of things."

Nash, 40, who grew up in the Roseland neighborhood, was convicted in the 1995 murder of Leon Stroud during a home invasion and was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

During his 17 years in prison, Nash missed countless family celebrations, gatherings and milestones, including the funeral of his maternal grandmother and his son's entire childhood.

But he also earned his GED diploma and wrote the legal brief that eventually helped him win his freedom. DNA testing linked another man to a ski mask found near the crime scene, clearing Nash of the crime. Cook County prosecutors refused to say he was innocent but dismissed the murder charges.

On his release, Nash said he was determined not to be bitter.

"I'm on a new journey," he said that day. "As far as my life, it begins now, and I'm thankful."

Back in Chicago, Nash took on life with an urgency, his family said. He re-established bonds with his younger sister and took an interest in the nephews and nieces he met for the first time. He visited his mother weekly, driving her to errands and walking her to the lakefront to relax. He spent time with his maternal grandfather on the West Side.

"He wanted to be a good uncle, so he'd check up on the kids," said Nash's sister, Robin Martin. "We'd talk on the phone for hours about our childhood, the time before he was taken away."

He enrolled in a 13-week culinary arts program and took on an apprenticeship, said officials with Inspiration Corp.

"We had discussions about the stress of things he was experiencing, but he was always enthusiastic and faithful and determined to finish," said Sharon Ako, who was the head chef trainer who instructed him. "He was hard working. He got along with the other students and he was genuinely liked. It took tenacity and diligence to stick with it and take orders and learn the skills he needed to learn."

His family said Nash planned to move to New Orleans and open a restaurant but was taking life day by day in the meantime.

On Tuesday morning, his mother said Nash called her as he usually did. Hours later she learned he had been killed.

"I just screamed from my innermost belly because I wanted God to know I hurt," Martin said.

As she moved about her modest apartment Wednesday talking about her first-born son, Martin paused and wept out loud. The tears rolled down her face.

"Nothing has ever felt so heavy on my heart," she said. "All those years he was taken from us and to lose him again in a short amount of time.

"He got a second shot at life and then someone took it away. For nothing."

On the day he was killed, Nash sent a text message to his attorney just 30 minutes before the shooting, telling her he was out looking for a job. Despite his certificate of innocence, he had difficulty finding work.

"He was trying to have a normal life," Zellner said. "The streets are so vicious and so cruel."

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MEG WAGNER Jul-29-2015 239 0
A University of Cincinnati cop was charged with murder on Wednesday for the quick-trigger shooting of an unarmed driver as prosecutors released disturbing body camera footage of the fatal traffic stop.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters ripped into Officer Ray Tensing during a news conference to announce the Grand Jury indictment in a killing that has set the city on edge.

“This is the most asinine act I've ever seen a police officer make — totally unwarranted,” Deters said of the July 19 shooting of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose. “This does not happen in the United States.”

The 25-year-old cop, who is white, surrendered at the county courthouse shortly after the indictment was handed up in the death of DuBose, who is black. The officer could face life in prison if convicted.

"We wanted the right thing to be done, the just thing to be done, the fair thing to be done," Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told reporters. "We wanted the truth to come out."

Tensing pulled over DuBose near the university campus for a missing front license plate and fatally shot him after grilling the father of 10 about whether he had his driver’s license.

But Deters said video from the stop showed no such thing. Instead DuBose began to slowly pull away from the officer, and Tensing "fell backward after he shot (DuBose) in the head," the prosecutor said.

Tensing "purposely killed" DuBose, Deters said, adding that the cop "should have never been a police officer."

“He wasn't dealing with someone who was wanted for murder. He was dealing with someone who didn't have a front license plate,” Deters said, calling the traffic stop "chicken crap."

DuBose’s mother, Audrey DuBose, said she could forgive Tensing “if he asks,” and praised God for the indictment.

“I want everybody to just lift up their heads in prayer and thank God, because this one did not go unsolved,” the mother told reporters.
DuBose’s mother, Audrey DuBose, said she could forgive Tensing “if he asks,” and praised God for the indictment.
“I want everybody to just lift up their heads in prayer and thank God, because this one did not go unsolved,” the mother told reporters.

Earlier on Wednesday, Tensing's attorney Stewart Mathews said the Grand Jury indictment was likely “given the political climate.” But Mathews said given the evidence he'd seen, he didn't believe there should be an indictment.

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who leads the separate city-run force, brushed off concerns the murder charge would make policing tougher for other officers faced with difficult situations.

"This officer was wrong," Blackwell said. "And when we're wrong, we have to be accountable."

DuBose's family had been pressing for the release of footage from Tensing's body-mounted camera following the deadly confrontation. The video showed the officer try to pull open the car door after DuBose failed to hand over a driver's license. DuBose shifted the car into gear, and Tensing immediately pulled his weapon and fired.
The car rolled down the street and came to a rest on the sidewalk. DuBose, shot in the head, was dead behind the wheel.

Tensions have run high following the killing. University President Santa Ono said he decided after speaking to police leaders to close the main campus on Wednesday as they waited for the news from the Grand Jury.

DuBose has a stepdaughter who is student at the university and recently returned from China, said Ono, who has met with the dead man's family.

The traffic stop shooting came amid months of national scrutiny of police dealings with African-Americans.

Mayor Cranley said prosecutor's decisive handling of the case should be a "model for the whole country" and called for peace. Bishop Bobby Hilton said there was "absolutely no reason" for any violence given the response by Deters and the Grand Jury to hold Tensing responsible.

"That brought a lot of solace," Hilton said. "That brought as much comfort as could be be expected to an enormous amount of pain."

Mourners packed Cincinnati’s Church of the Living God on Tuesday for DuBose’s funeral.

"I feel so sorry for this family and what they lost," Deters said Wednesday. "And I feel sorry for the community, too."

Tensing joined the university police force since April 2014 after working as both a part-time and full-time officer in Cincinnati suburb Greenhills for three years.

He received an overall satisfactory rating on his annual performance evaluation this April. It noted he was extremely strong in the traffic area and maintained control of his

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