Pete Buttigieg Faces the Ire of Black South Bend Residents After Fatal Police Shooting

Photo: Win McNamee (Getty Images)

Through the early days of the 2020 presidential campaign, Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has had trouble getting black voters to come to his events. That was not the case on Sunday—but then again, this wasn’t a campaign stop.

Buttigieg took a break from campaigning last week following a mounting backlash in his hometown over the police-involved killing of Eric Logan, a 54-year-old black man who was gunned down by a white police officer on June 16. The town-hall style meeting was tense, with Buttigieg fielding pointed questions and anger from black residents demanding accountability for the shooting.

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According to Time, one woman demanded Buttigieg “Get the people that are racist off the streets.”

“Reorganize your department. You can do that by Friday,” she added.

Buttigieg was also called to task for not doing a better job of enforcing the police department’s use of body cameras—the officer who shot Logan, Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, was wearing one at the time of the shooting but did not have it turned on. “When the mayor defended his record of engaging residents on policing, another person shouted, ‘We don’t trust you,’” writes the New York Times.

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According to a prosecutor investigating Logan’s shooting, Sgt. O’Neill was responding to a call about a suspicious person going through vehicles, which is when he allegedly encountered Logan leaning inside a car, Time reports:

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.

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The incident reignited long-simmering anger about racial inequality in the small Indiana town, where Buttigieg has received consistent criticism from black residents for years, particularly with regard to his oversight of the police department.

As City Lab writes, Buttigieg demoted the town’s first black police chief, Daryl Boykins, in 2012, following a federal inquiry into whether the chief and his communications director secretly recorded other officers. Boykins, however, says he was fired because of his race and sued the city. Every police chief appointed by Buttigieg since has been white, with white officers comprising 90 percent of the force. White residents make up little more than 60 percent of South Bend; 25 percent of residents are black.

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“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,” Buttieg told the crowd on Sunday. The mayor said he would ask for a federal investigation into Logan’s killing and for a special prosecutor to be assigned to the case.

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About the author

Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?