Court rules in favor of Ryan O’Neill, South Bend in civil rights case over Eric Logan shooting

Sep 30, 2021

Eric Logan's name written in styrofoam cups on a fence surrounding a baseball field in South Bend in 2019.
Credit Justin Hicks/IPB News

Ryan O’Neill, the former South Bend Police officer who shot and killed Eric Logan two years ago, has been granted summary judgement in a civil rights violation case.

The suit was filed against O’Neill and the city of South Bend by Logan’s family in 2019. It argued that O’Neill violated the civil rights of Logan, who was Black, by using excessive force and racial discrimination in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments during the shooting.

But Judge Damon Leichty of the federal Northern District of Indiana ruled in favor of the city and O’Neill on both claims Wednesday. In his 23-page opinion, Leichty wrote that Logan posed a “deadly threat” and that O’Neill “reasonably used his sidearm.”

“At first blush, the headline here might read similarly — South Bend police sergeant kills Black man — but the circumstances of this summer night cannot be reduced to a mere headline,” Leichty wrote. “What is the same is the tragic loss of human life. What is different is the deadly threat this suspect posed to the sergeant when he reasonably used his sidearm.”

The case is Estate of Logan v. City of South Bend, et al. In his ruling, Leighty wrote that the evidence Logan’s estate brought was inadmissible or irrelevant.

“Some may choose to second-guess Sergeant O’Neill’s split-second decision that night,” Leichty wrote. “But faced with an imminent threat to his safety, he acted reasonably under the law based on all the information available to him in that moment.” 

O’Neill shot Logan in the early hours of the morning on June 16, 2019, in the parking lot of the Central High Apartments. He was responding to a 911 call reporting someone breaking into cars, and said he confronted Logan and shot him after he refused orders to drop a knife.

O’Neill was wearing a body camera, but it was not activated and thus did not capture video of the incident. The shooting sparked numerous protests and memorials, and he resigned from the department a month later.

A special prosecutor was appointed to investigate the shooting, and ruled that it was justified in Feb. 2020. O’Neill was later charged with two felonies — one count of official misconduct related to soliciting a prostitute on duty a month before the shooting and one count of ghost employment.

In Sept. 2020, O’Neill accepted a deal that dropped the second felony charge in exchange for his guilty plea to the ghost employment charge. He was sentenced to two years probation and agreed to not seek work as a police officer or for any other public agency for ten years.

As a response to the shooting, the South Bend Police Department changed their body camera policy in Dec. 2019, adding stricter rules around when they must be recording and establishing random inspections of footage. 

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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