Buttigieg addresses South Bend police shooting in debate

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSenate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden seeks to fundraise off fact he's running out of money MORE addressed the police-involved shooting of a black man in his city at Thursday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate as the incident continues to consume his campaign.

Furor in the city was first sparked when Sgt. Ryan O’Neill shot and killed Eric Logan earlier this month. O’Neill said Logan approached him with a knife, though his body camera was not on at the time of the shooting.

ADVERTISEMENT

“My community is in anguish right now because of an officer-involved shooting. A black man, Eric Logan, killed by a white officer. I’m not allowed to take sides until the investigation comes back. The officer said he was attacked with a knife, but he didn’t have his body camera on. It’s a mess, and we’re hurting,” Buttigieg said.

“And I can walk you through all the steps that we took from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back," he said.

Buttigieg said the shooting touches on a larger trend across America of distrust between communities of color and local law enforcement. 

“This is an issue that is facing our community and so many communities around the county. And until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism, whatever this particular incident teaches us, we will be left with the bigger problem of the fact that there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act at a time,” he said.

“It threatens the well-being of every community, and I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching feels the exact same thing. The feeling not of fear, but of safety, I am determined to bring that day about.” 

The comments come a day after Logan’s family filed a lawsuit against O’Neill and South Bend for damages stemming from the shooting.

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.

Buttigieg has sought to balance his mayoral duties and White House bid, bouncing back and forth between South Bend and the campaign trail over the past few weeks. Though he has avoided discussing the shooting’s impact on his presidential aspirations, the incident has underlined his struggles 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.”