For the better part of a year in South Bend, Indiana, the family of Eric Logan has been seeking justice after the 54-year old was fatally shot by a police officer last June. Unfortunately (though predictably) their saga ends the way most stories involving cops, black people and extrajudicial executions end: with police officers receiving endless benefit of the doubt and the killings of black folks being noted as unfortunate—possibly even tragic—but not criminal.
According to Huffington Post, special prosecutor Ric Hertel announced Friday that Sgt. Ryan O’Neill will not be charged (let alone, convicted) in Logan’s death claiming that O’Neill was justified in shooting Logan down in the parking lot of an apartment complex while responding to reports of car break-ins on June 16.
“The use of deadly force by Sgt. O’Neill was justified based upon the threat and imminent danger presented by the sharp-edged knife in the right hand of Mr. Logan,” Hertel said in his report.
For those who are unfamiliar with the case, O’Neill’s claim is that Logan approached him with a knife and, feeling that his life was in imminent danger, he shot Logan twice with one bullet hitting him in the upper abdomen and killing him. All of this, of course, had to be taken at face value since O’Neill didn’t turn his body camera on until after the shooting and the dashcam in his patrol car was also not turned on.
Since O’Neill’s camera wasn’t active until after the shooting, all it caught was him telling another officer that Logan threw a knife at him. According to the South Bend Tribune, Hertel said in his report that it was unclear “whether the shooting happened before the knife was thrown or after,” though he concluded that it really didn’t matter since “there’s someone with a knife coming toward a police officer.”
Let’s do a quick recap before we move on:
- O’Neill claims Logan literally brought a knife to a gunfight prompting him to shoot. (Note: it’s unclear whether or not O’Neill gave Logan any warning to put his weapon down before he opened fire but, at any rate, a trained officer with a gun has a significant power advantage over a 54-year old civilian with a knife. It’s a hard sell that, even if O’Neill’s story is true, he didn’t have any option but to shoot to kill.)
- O’Neill claims Logan threw his knife at him and Hertel says whether or not that happened before or after the shooting didn’t matter. (Note: any reasonable person would argue that detail absolutely does matter because if the shooting happened after, then O’Neill shot an unarmed man. Also, why is O’Neill not able to clarify whether he shot after the knife was thrown or not since he is the only one living who witnessed events? Which brings us to the final point...)
- O’Neill, for an unexplained reason, had all cameras turned off during the shooting, but thought to turn his body-cam on after.
For the record, Logan’s family has always denied that he had a knife in the first place and said Logan was walking to his mother’s house after a family gathering. (In other words: minding his own damn business.) And since another detail, among many, that is unclear is what started the confrontation between the two to begin with, that claim seems more plausible than the officer’s—which isn’t a complete story at all.
It’s also worth pointing out that O’Neill is of questionable character. While he isn’t facing charges for killing Logan, Hertel noted in his report that he does face unrelated charges of soliciting a prostitute. Additionally, court documents obtained by HuffPost last year show that O’Neill’s fellow police officers previously accused him of making racist and derogatory comments in front of other officers.
That last bit is relevant since the family filed a federal lawsuit against the O’Neill and the city of South Bend after the shooting, claiming O’Neill’s actions were racially charged.
“The misconduct was objectively unreasonable and undertaken with willfulness and reckless indifference to the rights of others,” their lawsuit stated. “In addition, the misconduct and excessive force, including use of deadly force … shocks the conscience.”
But Hertel maintains that it was a good shoot saying, according to The Associated Press, “O’Neill must have had a subjective belief that he was going to sustain serious bodily injury.”
The Indianapolis Star reported that Hertel presented his investigation during a news conference Friday and that many in the audience were unconvinced that he was telling any truth.
“The only thing that’s clear is you were hired to stand up here and tell us lies,” one person yelled during the conference. That person isn’t alone in that sentiment.
Logan’s family and community activists have long criticized South Bend law enforcement for a shooting they saw as an excessive show of deadly force and a haphazard investigation into the matter.
In January, The Root reported that South Bend’s Black Lives Matter chapter was fiercely critical of the handling of Logan’s shooting under then-mayor (and now, former presidential candidate) Pete Buttigieg.
The following is part of an emailed statement sent to The Root from BLM South Bend:
Mayor Pete’s neglect after the recent shooting of #EricLogan by South Bend police led to a special prosecutor and federal civil rights suit. Both still pending: Associated Press: “Probe of Eric Logan shooting could revive scrutiny of Buttigieg”Huff Post: “Logan’s family sued the city of South Bend, led by Mayor Pete Buttigieg...The lawsuit alleges excessive deadly force in the ‘shooting death of an African American, 54-year-old father of seven … by a white South Bend police officer.’” The family “alleged the officer shot Logan while he was walking to his mother’s home after a family gathering.“Associated Press: “The issue could resurface as the prosecutor leading an investigation into the matter says his work likely won’t be finished before February, just as voters begin deciding whether Buttigieg should be the Democratic nominee...Buttigieg stepped away from the campaign trail and faced angry residents at an emotional town hall in South Bend...He acknowledged that his administration had failed to recruit more minority police officers and utilize police body cameras.”
For the record, Buttigieg denies neglecting the case. The former Democratic candidate, who just recently dropped out of the race, did issue a statement on Friday after the announcement that O’Neill would not be charged, according to HuffPost.
“Today’s findings show the importance of an outside and independent investigation in bringing information to light. Our city and country face ongoing challenges in addressing the future of policing and confronting the pain and mistrust caused by systemic racism, and I will continue to work in our community to help build a future of greater justice, equality and safety.”
The only consolation we have here (and it isn’t much) is that O’Neill resigned after the shooting.