Tensions boil over at Buttigieg town hall after recent violence

Tensions spilled over at a town hall held Sunday by South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegAdvocates see pilot program to address inequalities from highways as crucial first step Poll: Harris, Michelle Obama lead for 2024 if Biden doesn't run Five reasons for Biden, GOP to be thankful this season MORE following the fatal police shooting of a black man, drawing further scrutiny on the Democratic presidential candidate's record.

The town hall, which was held in South Bend a week after Eric Logan, an African American man, was killed by a police officer, grew tense as visibly angry black residents confronted Buttigieg and Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski over systemic failures with the city's law enforcement. 

Buttigieg, speaking calmly as audience members grew increasingly vocal, said the city will share information as soon as officials are able to do so.


The 37-year-old mayor, who has seen his popularity skyrocket in polls over the past several months, has sought to quell the anger in the community following Logan's death, and he temporarily left the campaign trail last week in order to address the incident. 

The issue shines further light on what is becoming a major stumbling block for Buttigieg as a presidential contender: his lack of popularity with black voters, seen as a must-win demographic for candidates seeking the Democratic Party's nomination. 

The military veteran and Rhodes scholar was already facing criticism over his handling of the firing of South Bend's black former police chief and his decision not to publicly release five tapes critics say could include racist language used by police officers.

The shooting of Logan by Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, who was not wearing his body camera at the time, has further strained relations between South Bend's black community and city officials. Protesters confronted Buttigieg after he returned to the city, and those simmering tensions appeared to boil over during Sunday's town hall.

As a moderator asked the audience to be respectful of Buttigieg's schedule, a man in the audience yelled back, "You gotta get back to South Carolina like you was yesterday?"

One woman during the town hall asked that the city place any racists "at the desk." 

"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," Buttigieg responded. 

He added that the city will look into any tools to help it better evaluate officers' racist activity.

"I don’t want to seem defensive, but we have taken a lot of steps. They clearly haven’t been enough. But I can’t accept the suggestion that we haven’t done anything," Buttigieg said. "I acknowledge that it has not been enough, I would like as many different voices to be in the process as possible. ... It’s why we’re here."

Throughout the evening, residents pushed Buttigieg about why the body camera that the city purchased wasn’t used.

Buttigieg said the failure could have happened because of the technology, the written policy or the individual officer. He said he can’t yet speak to the specifics of Sunday’s shooting, which is under review.

However, he said the administration hired the officer, wrote the policy and purchased the technology.

"At the end of the day, I'm responsible," Buttigieg said.