Pete Buttigieg pulled himself off the campaign trail this week to attend to a matter that arose in South Bend, Indiana. It’s his day job, after all, being Mayor of South Bend. There was a police shooting involving a white police officer and a black man early last Sunday.
Sgt. Ryan O’Neill shot and killed Eric Logan, age 54. O’Neill claims that Logan approached him with a knife but O’Neill’s body camera wasn’t on at the time of the shooting. Police responded to a report that a person was going through cars. Logan was in a vehicle in an apartment building parking lot as O’Neill approached him. Logan got out of the car and came toward O’Neill with a knife raised. Then O’Neill shot him. Mr. Logan died at the hospital. As happens these days, a video of the confrontation went viral. As tensions grew in South Bend, Mayor Pete decided to go back to his city and attend to the unrest.
Mayor Pete addressed an angry crowd of Black Lives Matter supporters Friday night during a Justice for South Bend rally. Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski and Buttigieg were confronted by about 150 people with a list of demands.
As the 150 or so demonstrators circled in, the event billed as a march actually spent its first 40 minutes in a tense discussion in front of police headquarters on West Sample Street, featuring shouts, expletives and raw emotions.
A member of the group read a list of demands to Buttigieg, calling for O’Neill to be fired and for a review of the case by the U.S. Department of Justice. It also called for the resignation of Ruszkowski, body camera policy changes, new training and other changes.
Family members of the deceased man were present, including his mother.
“I’m mad because my brother died,” Tyree Bonds, brother of Eric, said in the middle of the loud, intense dialogue. “People are getting tired of you letting your officers do whatever they want to do.”
Shirley Newbill, Eric’s mother, asked Buttigieg and the city to act on her son’s death.
“I have been here all my life, and you have not done a damn thing about me or my son or none of these people out here,” she said. “It’s time for you to do something.”
When Mayor Pete admitted that he saw no evidence that the officer had been disciplined for racist behavior, the angry shouts from the crowd began. One asked if Buttigieg supports Black Lives Matter and another called him a racist. One woman said that he wouldn’t get her vote as he runs for president. Buttigieg rather awkwardly said he wasn’t asking for any votes that day.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg: “I do not have evidence that there has been discipline for racist behavior…”
Protester: “You running for president and you expect black people to vote for you?”
Buttigieg: “I’m not asking for your vote.”
Protester: “You ain’t gonna get it either.” pic.twitter.com/tK1Ys0Yvfc
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) June 22, 2019
Buttigieg told the crowd he would send a letter to the Department of Justice to explain the case and its effects on South Bend. When asked to sign a petition, he declined. Citing the wording in the petition, he would consider one with revisions.
Buttigieg said the department had instituted civil rights and other training, worked on the safety board minority representation and put forth body cameras, and he acknowledged that it has not been enough.
“This isn’t enough, and I get it,” he said. “We set up body cameras, right? And they failed us when we needed them. If you are saying it’s not good enough, you’re right.”
Also, the mayor’s office on Tuesday announced that the police chief had issued a new order that “officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”
Local faith leaders, community organizers, and others have asked for an independent prosecutor to handle the case.