Family of man killed in South Bend files suit against city, police officer

Family of man killed in South Bend files suit against city, police officer
© Greg Nash

The family of a black man killed by a police officer in South Bend, Ind., filed a lawsuit against the city and the officer involved Wednesday, potentially heightening a crisis that has engulfed Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegIt's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Here's how Biden can win over the minority vote and the Rust Belt The Hill's Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race MORE’s (D) presidential campaign.

The lawsuit alleges Sgt. Ryan O’Neill used excessive deadly force against Eric Logan and subjected him to unlawful treatment based on his race when O'Neill shot and killed Logan earlier this month. O’Neill said Logan approached him with a knife so he opened fire.

The officer's body camera was off at the time of the shooting.

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The suit also accused the city of South Bend of inadequately training its officers, leading to events such as Logan’s killing, and failing to punish unspecified instances of police misconduct, which the family said “directly encourages future uses of excessive deadly force and race-based policing.”

“As a result of the City of South Bend’s policies and practices, and the unjustified and unreasonable conduct of the Defendant O’Neill, Plaintiff has suffered injuries, including severe emotional distress and ultimately the death of Eric Jack Logan,” the suit reads. 

The suit asks the court to award compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees to Logan’s family as well as punitive damages against O’Neill. 

Buttigieg’s mayoral office declined to comment to The Hill and his campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

“While the case is still being investigated, we do know this: a South Bend family is enduring the crushing and inconsolable anguish that far too many Black and Latino families across the country have shared,” Buttigieg wrote in a campaign email to supporters last week about the shooting.

"All police work and all of American life takes place in the shadow of racism, which hurts everyone and everything it touches. Historic racism, present-day racism, and generational racism – they all secrete a kind of poison into the bloodstream of this country."

Tensions have boiled over in the city in recent days over the killing, with a town hall last weekend featuring several angry residents who demanded further action from Buttigieg.

"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 responded. "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."

The mayor is facing pressure on multiple fronts over the incident, with the South Bend, Ind., police union accusing him of using a police-involved shooting “solely for his political gain.”

Buttigieg has worked to balance his duties as mayor with his presidential bid, travelling back and forth from South Bend and the campaign trail. He will appear in Miami Thursday night at the first presidential primary debate. 

Though he has sought to avoid delving into the political ramifications of the shooting, the incident puts into relief the struggles the Buttigieg campaign has faced with winning over voters of color.

"The black vote is crucial in the 2020 election,” a Democratic strategist told The Hill earlier this week. “It's the only way the nominee wins the election, and his response will echo among black voters for months and months to come. This incident shows you can be smart and well-versed on issues, but if you're out of touch with your own community it speaks volumes.”