Democrat presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeig faced intense backlash in a South Bend town hall after a local police officer fatally shot a robbery suspect.
On June 23, South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill responded to a 9-1-1 call about car break-ins near the Central High apartment complex in the downtown area. Suspect Eric J. Logan was allegedly holding a knife and refused to drop it after O’Neill ordered him to.
O’Neill’s body camera and dashboard camera were inactive during the incident. According to South Bend police, their body cameras and dashboard cameras activate when officer’s emergency lights go off. O’Neill’s lights were not on, as he was looking for the suspect in a parking lot. He eventually found Logan in a car and made contact with him to ensure he was the rightful owner of that car.
According to police accounts, Logan then threw a knife at O’Neill, who responded by fatally shooting the man.
According to Logan’s family, he had no past record of theft, although his brother said he did have some drug problems. St. Joseph County Circuit Court records say Logan did have previous run-ins with law enforcement, including possession of coke and narcotics, a handgun violation, and dealing of coke and narcotics.
Logan’s family is also upset that he was taken to the hospital in a police cruiser instead of an ambulance. O’Neill called for an ambulance after the shooting, but it didn’t arrive quickly, so police say another officer suggested O’Neill drive Logan to the hospital to get him treatment more quickly, given his injuries.
Buttigieg has come under scrutiny for the shooting as the South Bend Police have not hired as many non-white officers as some say they should. O’Neill was white and Logan was black, which only adds to the tensions over this incident in South Bend and the national debate about policing in minority communities.
“We have tried but not succeeded to increase diversity in the police department and we need help,” Buttigieg said the town hall on Sunday.
South Bend residents who showed up at the meeting expressed anger at Buttigieg and the South Bend Police. Crime has been a long-term problem in South Bend, and this incident highlights Buttigieg’s failure to address the problem during his seven years as mayor.
During the town hall, members of the community ridiculed Buttigieg and the police chief for their alleged inability to eliminate the police force of racists.
“Put them at the desk, make them do paperwork. Put the people that care about the fact that you different than me … make them the ones out there on the streets,” a South Bend community member said.
Due to the shooting, Buttigieg is taking time away from his 2020 presidential campaign to focus on his hometown. He has been nearly inactive on Twitter since the shooting. His only tweets have been to encourage South Bend citizens to attend the town hall and thanking city personnel who helped during a tornado that hit the South Bend area.
“Pete has a black problem,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). “I don’t know one black person out of Indiana that supports him.” Fudge is the former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Buttigieg trails behind current Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden by 13 points in his home state. In a South Carolina survey of 595 individuals, 18 percent of white voters said they would vote for Buttigieg, but 0 percent of black voters said they would.