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A week after police shooting, Pete Buttigieg faces angry residents at South Bend town hall

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St. Joseph County, Indiana Prosecutor Ken Cotter says there is no body cam video of the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in South Bend, the city where Democratic Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is mayor. (June 18)
AP, AP

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he takes responsibility for the South Bend police department’s failed efforts to hire more minority officers and implement the use of body cameras.

“The city is hurting and in pain,” Buttigieg said. “We were on track as a city to have fewer shootings than last year, and we can’t bring that number down without all of us doing something about it.

“We have tried but not succeeded, and I take full responsibility for that,” he said.

The Democratic candidate spoke at an emotional town hall a week after the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer in the Indiana city where he is mayor.

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Buttigieg’s handling of the situation and the simmering tensions with the black community in his hometown is under scrutiny as he tries to appeal to voters of color, key segments of the Democratic base. He has recently been gaining traction among minority voters.

Buttigieg, who left the campaign trail to return to South Bend, told reporters after the event that he still plans to participate in Thursday’s Democratic debate.

He said the issues raised at the town hall are part of a conversation that has to happen, as painful as it is.

“This problem has to get solved in my lifetime,” he said.

Buttigieg, along with South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski, answered questions from several upset residents who shouted questions and concerns at the two city leaders.

A pivotal moment: Buttigieg faces a test after police shooting

“Get the people that are racists off the streets,” one resident told Buttigieg on Sunday. “Reorganize the department and get those people off the streets now.”

NAACP South Bend Chapter President Apostle Michael Patton moderated the event Sunday at Washington High School.

Eric Jack Logan, 54, was killed in South Bend after someone called police to report a suspicious person going through cars, according to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.

A police officer confronted a man in a vehicle at an apartment building parking lot. The man, later identified as Logan, got out of the vehicle and allegedly approached the officer with a knife raised, and the officer opened fire, the prosecutor’s office said. Logan died at a hospital.

City officials said there isn’t body camera footage of the shooting.

Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill is on paid administrative leave while the shooting is under investigation. 

South Bend residents’ concerns

Buttigieg and Ruszkowski walked residents through the process the police department takes after an officer-involved shooting. They said such investigations of cases such as Logan’s could take up to 60 days.

But residents demanded the two city leaders take action now.

“How long before you take action?” one resident said. “The people who are here angry and yelling and upset have asked this of you before.”

Buttigieg has faced criticism for his handling of other shootings involving police officers and for not having a police department that reflects the city’s diversity; in a city where roughly 40% of residents are black or Hispanic, the department is almost 90% white.

He has had a sometimes-bumpy relationship with African Americans in South Bend, where he demoted the city’s first black police chief and demolished hundreds of dilapidated homes in predominantly minority neighborhoods.

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Buttigieg said he has implemented policies such as bias training and civil-rights training for police officers and will continue to work to make sure the department meets them.

He also said he has recommended, as requested by residents, that the U.S. Department of Justice look at Logan’s shooting incident.

And he will also request an independent investigator be appointed by South Bend prosecutors to take over the case.

“We’re going to work to review the use of force in the department and the process for investigating these shootings,” Buttigieg said. “This is the beginning of the conversation and not the end.”

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In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Pete Buttigieg talks about his vision of healthy identity politics
Kelsey Kremer, kkremer@dmreg.com

11 shot in South Bend earlier

The town hall Sunday was also hosted only hours after multiple shootings in South Bend that left one person dead and at least 10 others injured.

The shootings prompted a lockdown at a South Bend hospital after a crowd of about 100 residents arrived after a shooting at a bar, according to the St. Joseph County sheriff.

Sunday’s shootings and the one from June 16 are still under investigation.

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Pete Buttigieg,. Mayor of South Bend, and Presidential candidate, stopped at Indiana University to lay out his foreign policy plans.
Robert Scheer, robert.scheer@indystar.com

IndyStar reporter Natalia Contreras writes about things to do and development in Hamilton County. She can be reached at 317-444-6187 or natalia.contreras@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter, @NataliaECG

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