South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski engaged with activists at a march Friday evening for shooting victim Eric Logan.
Logan was shot and killed by officer Ryan O’Neill. O’Neill says Logan was breaking into cars and threatened him with a knife. O’Neill’s body camera was not recording at the time of the incident.
Since then, tempers have been running high in South Bend. Shardae Word said during the march that having a police shooting like this happen in South Bend makes it seem more real.
“We see this stuff on TV miles and miles away but to experience it and then to have it hit so close to home, it makes it even more tragic.” Word said she lost her husband to gun violence.
People at the march questioned the mayor and the chief about what’s going on, why O’Neill hasn’t been fired, and why his body camera wasn’t on.
Activist Eli Cantu told the crowd that Buttigieg and Ruszkowski can’t solve the problems singlehandedly.
“We gotta get involved. This is a good thing. A tragedy can bring opportunity if only we stick together. These two men are not going to give us all the answers, this is not a courtroom.”
Buttigieg mirrored that. “I’m just here to let you know that we’re listening,” he said. “That I can’t fix all this. I definitely can’t fix any of this alone. I know that.”
Tyree Bonds, Logan’s brother said he’s friends with Ruszkowski and that shouting won’t do any good.
“We’re gonna ride with this man and let the courts do what they’re supposed to do,” Bonds said outside the police station. “But we ain’t gonna be disrespectful, hands down. My brother’s dead. We want answers but we ain’t gettin’ answers being a**holes.”
An investigation by the County Prosecutor is ongoing. Buttigieg promised to send a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice about an outside investigation. He also said he wants the community to help rewrite some police department policies.
“I recognize that there’s not a lot of confidence in the process so we are going to figure out a better process,” Buttigieg said. “And by we, I don’t mean me. I’m not going to sit behind a desk, think up a better process, put it in place and then ask you all to accept it. We are going to figure out a way to involve the community in improving the process.”
Guy Lathion introduced himself as a friend of Eric Logan. “I think everybody should just let the system do what it’s supposed to do,” Lathion said on the march. “If they don’t do it right, then react. Instead of reacting before justice can be served.”
Ruszkowski said there are bad police officers, but he said his force is mostly good people. “We don’t get it right all the time, without a doubt,” Ruszkowski said on the lawn of the department. “There are police officers on this department, and other departments that don’t belong here. But the majority of the police officers on the police department [are] 100 percent honesty, integrity, accountability.”
Ruszkowski encouraged people to go on to the department’s online transparency hub, which has been documenting crime statistics, use of force incidents, and complaints against the police for more than two years.
At the other end of the march, in downtown South Bend at the County-City Building on Jefferson Avenue Buttigieg addressed the gathered crowd.
“I get that we are answering for centuries of racism in this country, and in South Bend,” Buttigieg said. He said the work towards equality will never be done, but “So long as I live I will work on this. Because it’s my community too.”
Buttigieg said there will be a town hall to present some of what the investigation has uncovered as early as Sunday.