Buttigieg criticized at emotional town hall about officer-involved shooting

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(Photo supplied/ABC 57)

South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg faced criticism, Sunday. from angry black residents at an emotional town hall meeting a week after a white police officer fatally shot a car break-in suspect Eric Logan.

Buttigieg said he would call for an outside investigation of the shooting of Logan by Sgt. Ryan O’Neill.

Buttigieg said he would send a letter to the federal Department of Justice’s civil rights division and notify the local prosecutor that he’d like an independent investigator appointed. He conceded that his administration had failed on two key initiatives.

“The effort to recruit more minority officers to the police department and the effort to introduce body cameras have not succeeded and I accept responsibility for that,” Buttigieg said.

Prosecutors investigating said that the shooting was not recorded by O’Neill’s body camera.

The town hall grew contentious when some community members questioned whether the mayor had done enough to reform the police department in the city of 100,000 people, which is about a quarter black.

“Get the people that are racist off the streets,” one woman in the audience said. “Reorganize your department. You can do that by Friday.”

Buttigieg left the campaign trail for several days to deal with the reaction to the shooting, holding a late night news conference, meeting with the family of the man killed and addressing a protest rally where he was heckled by some in the crowd.

The June 16 shooting happened after O’Neill responded to a call about a suspicious person going through vehicles, a prosecutor investigating the case said. O’Neill spotted Logan leaning inside a car. When confronted, Logan approached O’Neill with a 6- to 8-inch knife raised over his head, the prosecutor said. O’Neill fired twice, with the other shot hitting a car door.

The 37-year-old Buttigieg had surged from obscurity to become a top-tier candidate in a crowded Democratic presidential field. But he has struggled to connect with minority voters.

The white mayor has had a sometimes-tense relationship with the black community dating back to his first term in office, when he fired the city’s first black police chief. He has also faced criticism for his handling of police misconduct cases, including a case involving an officer who was twice disciplined for civil rights violations but not fired, and for not having a police department that reflects South Bend’s diversity. The police department is almost 90 percent white.

In the wake of the shooting, Buttigieg called on his police chief to remind officers to have their body cameras on at all times when they are engaging with citizens.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t care what color the people were that were involved. When you come at a police officer with a knife wielded, you should expect the officer to fire. If it was a white suspect coming at a black officer, I would whole heartedly support the officer firing at him.

  2. Yes, minorities have to apply, but it is also reasonable to expect ALL officers to have the same training and testing, and otherwise meet the same requirements, regardless of skin color.

    I cannot speak to the case involving Officer O’Neill and Eric Logan, other than in this day and age of officer involved shootings, which the media reports only about White officers vs. Black suspects, every single officer should instinctually know to make sure their body cameras are on before engaging with a suspect. However, it sounds like cameras are linked to the sirens, and the officer didn’t seem to feel there was enough of an initial concern to activate his lights/sirens. Correct me if I’m wrong. My opinion is this: if you weren’t a witness to the event, let the investigation take its course and don’t rush to judge the officer, or the department, or the mayor.

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