A fatal police shooting has upended Mayor Pete Buttigieg's campaign. Here's what you need to know.
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg faced criticism Sunday from angry residents of South Bend, Indiana, at an emotional town hall meeting a week after a white police officer fatally shot a black man in the city where he is mayor. (June 24) AP Domestic
A fatal police shooting in South Bend has caused simmering racial tensions in the northern Indiana city to boil over while also presenting Mayor Pete Buttigieg with the biggest challenge yet of his presidential run.
On June 16, 54-year-old Eric Jack Logan, who is black, was fatally wounded by white South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill during the investigation of a series of vehicle thefts.
With no footage of the incident, questions surround the shooting and Buttigieg has pulled himself from the campaign trial to address community members face-to-face, including during an emotional Sunday night town hall.
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The shooting of Eric Logan
According to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's office, the investigation began shortly before 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 16. Police were called to the 100 block of North William Street after dispatch received a report of a suspicious person going through cars.
O'Neill responded to the scene and confronted a man, later identified as Logan, who police said was partially in a vehicle in the Central High School Apartments parking lot.
Officials said Logan stepped out of the vehicle with a knife in his hand and approached O'Neill with the weapon raised. O'Neill stepped back and ordered Logan to drop the weapon, police say.
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Police said when Logan did not comply, O'Neill fired his service weapon and struck Logan.
After the shooting, Logan was taken to Memorial Hospital, less than a mile away, in a squad car. He pronounced dead at the hospital. O'Neill was treated for minor injuries and discharged, according to the prosecutor's office.
The nature of O'Neill's injuries remains unclear.
A body camera, but no footage
So far, O'Neill's account is the only one to emerge. While O'Neill was equipped with a body camera, police say the officer did not activate it and there is no other footage of the shooting. No other witnesses have come forward.
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said O’Neill's dash and body cameras weren’t activated because he was driving slowly without his emergency lights on.
Investigators have also been unable to obtain external video of the shooting, stating that the surrounding buildings in the area did not have working cameras.
Late last week, the prosecutor's office issued a statement confirming that they were still considering bringing in a special prosecutor as officials investigate the case to determine if any criminal charges will be filed.
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The family's response
Logan's family members are demanding answers. They say the incident sounds out of character for the man they knew as a husband, father and grandfather.
They say he has no history of theft and wouldn't attack an armed officer with a knife, according to the South Bend Tribune. They also ask why he was transported to the hospital in a police cruiser rather than an ambulance.
The South Bend Tribune reports that O'Neill initially called for an ambulance but decided to rush Logan to the hospital in a squad car instead of waiting for the ambulance to arrive after another officer made the suggestion.
Body camera policy in South Bend
In the wake of the shooting, South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski issued a general order making it clear that all officers are to keep their body cameras activated when engaging members of the public.
This includes non-emergency call responses and any time there is civilian contact in relation to a complaint.
“Officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians," Ruszkowski said.
The city policy states that "all enforcement and investigative contacts, traffic stops (including back-up), field interviews, and self-initiated contacts shall be recorded."
The day of the shooting, Buttigieg left the campaign trail and returned to South Bend to meet with the public that night. But Buttigieg's handling of the situation and the longtime tensions with the black community in his hometown are under scrutiny as he tries to appeal to voters of color.
The mayor has discussed Logan's death at press conferences and at community marches that became the site of a now-viral exchange between Buttigieg and a group of protestors.
During a Sunday town hall, Buttigieg and Ruszowski answered questions from several upset residents whose concerns escalated to shouting.
"Get the people that are racists off the streets," one resident told Buttigieg on Sunday. "Reorganize the department and get those people off the streets now."
During the event, Buttigieg said he takes responsibility for the South Bend Police Department's failed efforts to hire more minority officers and implement the use of body cameras.
Buttigieg and Ruszkowski also explained that investigations of cases such as Logan's could take up to 60 days. But residents demanded the two city leaders take action now.
"How long before you take action?" one resident said. "The people who are here angry and yelling and upset have asked this of you before."
Buttigieg's track record on race
Buttigieg has faced criticism for his handling of other shootings involving police officers and for a lack of diversity in the police department. In a city where roughly 40% of residents are black or Hispanic, the department is almost 90% white.
His relationship with African Americans in South Bend has often been rocky. He faced criticism his first year in office after demoting the city's popular, first African American police chief, Darryl Boykins, over his handling of an illegal police phone-tapping incident that drew the attention of federal authorities. Boykins, who has denied wrongdoing, eventually sued and settled with the city out of court, with neither side admitting fault.
Buttigieg also started a program to demolish 1,000 vacant homes in 1,000 days. Community advocates in poorer, often African-American or Hispanic neighborhoods soon began to complain that the city was being too aggressive in issuing fines to property owners, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, and demolishing buildings over code enforcement issues.
Years into the program, however, many credited Buttigieg with listening to their concerns and altering course to help qualified property owners fix, instead of lose, their houses.
Video also surfaced of Buttigieg using the phrase "all lives matter" during a speech in 2015 at a local high school.
“I was talking about a lot of issues around racial reconciliation in our community,” Buttigieg said in comments two months ago reported by The New York Times. “What I did not understand at that time, was that phrase, just early into mid-2015, was coming to be viewed as a sort of counter-slogan to Black Lives Matter. And so, this statement, that seems very anodyne and something that nobody could be against, actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us.”
IndyStar reporters Chris Sikich, Natalia Contreras and the Associated Press contributed to this story. Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.