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Concerns Mount In South Bend After A White Police Officer Kills A Black Man


Some residents of South Bend, Ind., are raising questions after the shooting death of a black resident by a white police officer. Mayor Pete Buttigieg came off the presidential campaign trail to deal with concerns over bias and the use of body cameras. Justin Hicks of member station WVPE reports.

JUSTIN HICKS, BYLINE: It was about 3:30 in the morning on Father's Day when Sergeant Ryan O'Neill was dispatched to investigate a call about someone breaking into cars.


UNIDENTIFIED POLICE DISPATCHER: There's a subject in the north parking lot wearing all dark clothing with a flashlight possibly breaking out windows.

HICKS: Prosecutors say when the officer arrived, he saw two legs sticking out of a car and that when he approached, Eric Logan turned around holding a large knife in one hand. Officer O'Neill told prosecutors he yelled several times for Logan to drop the knife before firing two shots, one into his stomach. Logan was rushed in a police car to the hospital where he later died. And that's about all we know because Sergeant O'Neill never turned on his body or dashboard cameras. Without footage, there's questions not only about the shooting but about why Logan was transported to a nearby hospital in a police car rather than an ambulance. South Bend is a city of just over 100,000 people located near Chicago. More than a quarter of residents are black, and the news hit Brenda Bely hard.

BRENDA BELY: It just - it sank.

HICKS: During his 7 1/2 years as mayor, Pete Buttigieg has had uneasy relations with some in South Bend's black community. After the shooting, he left the campaign trail returning home to coordinate the investigation.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: I thought it was important sooner rather than later for us to make clear how this process is going to work and also to state the community's values.

HICKS: Logan's family members met with Buttigieg and say he promised transparency as the investigation progresses. Shafonia Logan is Eric Logan's wife.

SHAFONIA LOGAN: It's a lot of rumors out there, but nobody know what went on but the police and him, and he's not here to tell it.

HICKS: Documents from an internal police investigation also surfaced, showing that trainees had accused O'Neill of making racist remarks about blacks and Muslims while on duty. The department determined them to be, quote, "not sustained." The major focus has been on body cameras and why O'Neill's wasn't turned on. Council member Regina Williams-Preston says that the city spent $1.5 million on cameras to try to avoid situations like this.


REGINA WILLIAMS-PRESTON: How can we trust our police department when we put all of those elements in place but we don't follow through?

HICKS: Mayor Buttigieg ordered the chief of police to notify officers that body cameras were expected to be on during all interactions with civilians. At a swearing in ceremony for new officers, he encouraged them to act with restraint and equity.


BUTTIGIEG: We gather in the wake of a shooting that has left family members grieving the loss of someone they love and also leaves an officer and his family dealing with the consequences of that encounter.

HICKS: Late Wednesday, a meeting to talk about gun violence took on a new life in the wake of the shooting. More than 50 community leaders and activists stood in a large circle on an outdoor basketball court. Pete Buttigieg showed up unannounced and listened, sometimes taking direct criticism. Here's Wayne Hubbard.

WAYNE HUBBARD: I know it's not your fault. You were not here when it happened, but these systems were here. They have to stop. People are dying.

HICKS: While the investigation continues, Buttigieg is set to return to the campaign trail today with events scheduled in Florida and South Carolina.

For NPR News, I'm Justin Hicks in South Bend.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Justin Hicks