South Bend, IN – The South Bend police union has accused its mayor, 2020 Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, of using a recent officer-involved shooting in their city to further his political ambitions.
Buttigieg recently said the South Bend Police Department was plagued with “systematic racism” – a claim the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) fervently denied in a press release on July 1 that called for the mayor to recuse himself from all decisions related to the investigation of the June 16 fatal shooting of 54-year-old Eric Logan.
“Mayor Buttigieg has repeatedly shown that he’s more concerned about boosting his own presidential political campaign than ensuring a fair investigation about an incident where a veteran police officer was forced to defend himself when a dangerous felon attacked him with an eight-inch hunting knife,” South Bend FOP President Harvey Mills said in the release.
“On a national TV debate, the mayor called our entire police force racist while another candidate insisted that Buttigieg fire the police chief," the statement continued. "Since this incident is now part of the accusations and political posturing of presidential politics, Mayor Buttigieg must do the right thing and recuse himself from any further decisions related to this matter.”
The controversial incident issue occurred at about 3:30 a.m. on June 16 when South Bend Police Sergeant Ryan O’Neill responded to a call about a man breaking into cars at an apartment complex, according to the press release.
Sgt. O’Neill encountered a man whose legs were sticking out of his car and stopped to talk to him and find out if he was the owner of the car.
When Logan stood up, Sgt. O’Neill saw that the man’s hand was bleeding and he had a woman’s purse tucked under his clothing, according to the FOP.
Sgt. O’Neill asked Logan about the purse and the six-foot-two-inch suspect raised an eight-inch knife over his head and started moving toward him.
The sergeant backed up and ordered Logan to drop the knife three times, but Logan continued walking toward him until the officer had no more room to retreat, the press release said.
That’s when Sgt. O’Neill fired his weapon twice – just at the exact moment that Logan threw the knife at him.
Logan was hit once. The FOP said the sergeant sustained minor injuries to his forearm from the knife attack.
After he was shot, Logan remained standing but refused to answer Sgt. O’Neill’s questions as to whether he had been hit, the press release said.
South Bend police transported Logan to the hospital in a police car rather than delaying treatment to wait for an ambulance. He died at the hospital.
In the days that followed the incident, community activists gathered at the South Bend Police Department to protest in the days that followed the incident and marched to the County City Building to demand that city officials fire Sgt. O’Neill, WBND reported.
In a fundraising email Buttigieg sent to political supporters the week after the shooting, the mayor wrote “all police work and all of American life takes place in the shadow of racism, which hurts everyone and everything it touches. Historic racism, present-day racism, and generational racism – they all secrete a kind of poison into the bloodstream of this country.”
He said he was working to improve the South Bend police and said “we’ve acted to have a more professional promotions process. And to raise the discipline standards which as you know have included officers being removed from the force for misconduct,” FOX News reported.
But the South Bend FOP sees his handling of the incident as wholly unacceptable.
“Mayor Buttigieg swore an oath to ‘faithfully, impartially, and diligently discharge the duties of the office of mayor’ of South Bend but he’s been faithful only to his political interests, has not been impartial about this incident, and has diligently used this to advance his presidential campaign,” the union president said. “If he wants to honor the oath he took, Mayor Buttigieg will recuse himself from this matter by taking no part in any decisions, conversations, or other aspects of it.”
The FOP said that Buttigieg’s politicization of the officer-involved shooting had numerous consequences for Sgt. O’Neill, who was already on paid administrative leave and facing an investigation as is protocol when an officer fires his duty weapon.
Additionally, Sgt. O’Neill has been sued, threatened with unwarranted discipline at work, and defamed on social media as a result of the mayor’s reckless remarks and politicking, according to the press release.
FOX News reported that Buttigieg wouldn’t comment on the FOP’s statement and demand for his recusal, but sent them a written statement.
"Communities and police departments across the nation are in crisis,” the statement read. “We must bring about swift and deep change, refusing to rest until we live in a world where an American’s response to seeing or hearing a police car is no different whether they are Black or white: a feeling of safety, not fear. Safety and justice are inseparable."
On Wednesday, a judge appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting, the Associated Press reported.