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

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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?”

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Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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