Angry and Frustrated South Bend Residents Just Confronted Mayor Pete Over Fatal Police Shooting

“I just want to make sure that you are aware that we’re looking for no cover up.”

The Hill/Twitter

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

In South Bend, Indiana, a nearly two-hour town hall turned tense when mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg took questions in the aftermath of recent police-involved shooting that killed a black man. 

Sergeant Ryan O’Neill shot Eric Logan, 53, last Sunday while responding to reports that Logan was breaking into cars. Authorities say that Logan had a knife and lunged at the officer. But O’Neill, who has a history of making racist comments, hadn’t activated his body camera. Logan’s family has also questioned why he was brought to the hospital in a police car rather than an ambulance. 

Buttigieg was simultaneously cheered and booed as he walked on stage at Washington High School on Sunday afternoon and, beside police chief Scott Ruszkowski, outlined steps in the police investigation into the shooting. “It will be our policy that everything that can come out, come out,” said Buttigieg. “If anyone who is on patrol is shown to be a racist or to do something racist in a way that is substantiated, that is their last day on the street.”

As the town hall progressed into a question and answer session, residents expressed long-simmering frustration with the mayor and the city’s police force, which has become less diverse over the course of Buttigieg’s leadership. In 2012, two months into his tenure as mayor, Buttigieg fired black police chief Darryl Boykins for allegedly taping phone calls of white officers said to have used racist language. (At least one audience member on Sunday referenced Boykins, seemingly wanting Ruszkowski to meet the same fate.)

“I am raising a seven-year-old grandson that, when he sees the police, he’s afraid,” said one community member. “That is not what’s supposed to happen in America, in Indiana, in 2019.” She noted that the response so far sounded “a little Laquan McDonaldish to me,” referencing the 2015 murder of a black Chicago teenager at the hands of the police.

“I just want to make sure that you are aware that we’re looking for no cover up. That we want transparency. Total transparency,” she added.

The mayor said he supported calls for a Department of Justice review of the shooting and acknowledged that initiatives to implement body cameras and diversify the police force have not succeeded. “I accept responsibility for that,” he conceded. 

Asked about the failure of the body cameras, the mayor responded, “If anybody is trying to figure out who to hold responsible: the administration bought the technology, hired the officer, and wrote the policy. So at the end of the day, I’m responsible.”

This isn’t the first time this week that Buttigieg, who has taken several breaks from the campaign trail, faced the anger of his constituents: On Friday, Buttigieg took questions from a crowd of protesters outside the police department, including Logan’s mother, Shirley Newbill.

“Y’all ain’t doing a damn thing about me or my son or none of these people out here,” said Newbill on Friday. Before the mayor could respond, another woman added, “Are you really here because you care about blacks, or are you just here because you want to be the president?”

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.