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“By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing, by allowing all these developments, we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.

The family of an Ohio man, fatally shot by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop, will receive $5.3 million as the result of a settlement reached with the University of Cincinnati.  The settlement announced yesterday, includes free college tuition for his 12 children, in a settlement with the school. The agreement also includes an apology to the family from the school president Santa Ono and a University pledge to work with the family to establish a memorial on campus commemorating the deceased victim.

Samuel DuBose, a 43-year-old father of 12, was shot and killed on 19 July after Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati police officer, pulled him over for not having a front license plate.  Tensing alleged that after he stopped the car, DuBose refused to provide a driver’s license and further refused to exit his vehicle when asked to do so. Tensing alleged that a struggle ensued and as DuBose tried to drive away, the officer fired for fear of being dragged under the car. DuBose died of a single gunshot wound to the head.

However, according to prosecutor Joe Deters, Tensing’s body camera video tells a completely different story.  It shows Tensing reaching through the driver’s window and shooting DuBose – point blank – in the head. DuBose, who was unarmed, was black, and Tensing is white. Tensing has pleaded not guilty and is free on $1 million bond. A trial date for the 25-year-old campus police officer has yet to be set.

The death of DuBose happened amid a string of high-profile killings of black Americans at the hands of police officers throughout the country.  This incident and others like it have prompted calls for all police officers, nationwide, to wear body cameras.  Mandating cameras for all officers would certainly provide evidentiary assistance in such tragic situations; however, the important questions are:  Will they offer only after-the-fact solutions?  What are the circumstances that cause police officers to shoot (or brutalize-Freddy Gray) unarmed (predominately black) citizens?   We are three years into “Black Lives Matter” movement and the epidemic continues.

It is symbolic that this settlement was announced on Martin Luther King Day. Reverend King was a man of peace; he would have abhorred the gun violence that permeates American law enforcement culture.  There seems to be a “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality.  Is this a racial issue?  Is it a cultural issue?  Has our society become desensitized to violence?  Have the police forgotten citizens’ civil rights that Martin Luther King fought so hard to establish and protect?  Do citizens have less respect for the police?  What’s going on?  I don’t have the answers; I only have lots of questions.

Dr. King’s life and work symbolize the quest for peace, equality and nondiscrimination that lies at the heart of the American dream. In his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, King envisioned a world where people were no longer divided by race. Something must be done, but, we must first understand that this is not a “black” problem; it is an American problem.  All Americans, regardless of race or creed, must work together to solve it. Our goal must be nothing short of creating a just, humane, and peaceful society.  My profound sympathies to the DuBose family.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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