INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A lawyer for the family of a black man fatally shot by a white police officer in the Indiana city where Pete Buttigieg is mayor on Friday accused the Democratic presidential candidate of failing to be aggressive enough in setting rules to curb police misconduct.
Attorney Brian Coffman said he’s preparing a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of South Bend on behalf of the family of 54-year-old Eric Logan, who was shot by an officer Sunday.
“It is overall total acceptance of this behavior by the South Bend Police Department and the city itself,” Coffman said in an interview.
Logan’s death prompted Buttigieg to cancel much of his out-of-state campaigning this week and drew attention to his struggles appealing to black voters. Buttigieg returned to campaigning Friday with a trip to Miami, but skipped a South Carolina event attended by 21 other Democratic presidential candidates to fly home for a Friday evening community march. South Bend is a city of about 100,000 people 150 miles (241 kilometers) north of Indianapolis.
Authorities have said Sgt. Ryan O’Neill was looking for a man reportedly breaking into cars about 3:30 a.m. Sunday when he fired one shot that hit Logan and another that missed after Logan threatened him with a knife.
Logan’s family and others in the African American community have reacted with anger over no video existing of the confrontation because O’Neill’s dash and body cameras weren’t activated.
Buttigieg, who became mayor in 2012, said Wednesday that he was “extremely frustrated” that O’Neill’s body camera wasn’t turned on. On Tuesday, he directed his police chief to remind officers of a department policy that cameras must be on during any interaction with civilians.
Prosecutor’s office investigators said O’Neill’s body camera wasn’t automatically activated because he was driving slowly without emergency lights while looking through an apartment building parking lot for someone possibly breaking into cars.
Coffman said he believed Buttigieg was trying to now say the right things, but that such actions should’ve been taken before.
“That’s just being reactive, it’s not being proactive and making sure this never happened and having rules in place for South Bend police officers and body cameras,” Coffman said.
Mayor’s office spokesman Mark Bode declined to comment Friday on Coffman’s remarks or the potential lawsuit, saying the city was awaiting results of the investigation being overseen by the county prosecutor.
Logan didn’t have any convictions for serious violent crimes, but was released from prison in June 2018 after serving a sentence for a 2009 conviction in South Bend on three felony counts of dealing cocaine or narcotics, according to Indiana Department of Correction records.
Logan’s family believes a federal investigation of the shooting should be sought, rather than relying on one overseen by the county prosecutor’s office, which works closely with the city police department, or a police internal review, Coffman said.
“It is very tough to believe the left arm of a police department telling you what the right arm did wrong,” he said.