How Two Gunshots Sparked Outrage in South Bend
It’s been over two weeks since a black South Bend resident was fatally shot by a white police officer, but the pain and outrage ignited in the community have not gone away. Here's a timeline with some context to give insight into how this incident sparked an outcry.
It was just before 3:30 a.m. on Father’s Day when South Bend police officer Ryan O’Neill responded to a call about a suspicious person at an apartment building.
“There’s a subject in the north parking lot wearing all dark clothing with a flashlight," a South Bend police dispatcher said that night. "Possibly breaking out windows.”
Prosecutors say when O’Neill found Eric Logan stepping out of a car, he had an eight-and-a-half-inch knife raised in one hand and a purse tucked into his waistband. Then O’Neill yelled several times for Logan to drop the knife before firing two shots, one into his stomach.
Sgt. O’Neill called dispatch moments after.
“Yeah I’m fine... um… another unit here,” O’Neill said on the recording. “The guy threw a knife at me.”
An additional officer rushed Logan to the hospital in a police car. Logan died shortly after.
As Logan’s family discovered his death, they had lots of questions. They say he was a devoted father who was planning a family barbeque to celebrate Father’s Day with his kids and brothers. And although he’d been convicted of drug and weapon possession in the past, they never knew him to steal from cars.
Even if he was, they asked, did the incident require lethal force? And, why was he moved to the hospital in a police car rather than waiting for an ambulance?
Eric Logan’s wife, Shafonia, that evening said, “[There’s] a lot of rumors out there, but nobody knows what went on but the police and him. And he’s not here to tell it.”
When it was later revealed Sgt. O’Neill’s body camera were not turned on, uncertainty became outrage. To many, Logan’s death was the latest in a long history of racially-charged controversies involving the South Bend Police Department.
The biggest one was in 2012, when a black police chief was federally investigated for secretly recording officers using racial slurs about him.
To make matters worse, subpoenaed documents showed several cadets O’Neill trained in 2008 claimed he made racist remarks in front of them. And the officer that transported Logan to the hospital, Aaron Knepper, had been investigated several times for misconduct, and community members called for him to be fired four years ago.
At a vigil for Eric Logan, council member Regina Williams-Preston said that history of misdeeds was exactly why the city council spent $1.5 million to implement body cameras last year.
“We said it! We said what is it going to take?" she asked a crowd of people. "Is it going to take a black man to be murdered by the police of South Bend? How can we trust our police department when we put all of those elements in place, but we don’t follow through?”
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg left his presidential campaign immediately after Logan’s death and attempted to calm the outrage. He asked the police chief to remind officers turn on body cameras for all civilian interactions, but said he couldn’t fire them and wouldn’t ask the chief to resign.
Frustrated by the lack of changes in police policy or punitive action against officers, people gathered outside the South Bend Police Department to admonished Buttigieg in-person, when he attended a protest.
“Can you say to us today in front of all these cameras that black lives matter?" a protestor asked Buttigieg.
"Did you just ask me if black lives matter?" he responded. "Of course black lives matter!"
That afternoon, in response to demands for an independent investigation, Buttigieg promised to write a letter to the Department of Justice.
Separately, St. Joseph County prosecutor Ken Cotter asked an Indiana circuit judge to appoint a special prosecutor.
After Logan’s funeral people are still outraged and wait to see what’s next. Buttigieg recently promised a public “process” to discuss policing practices, but he gave no specifics.
“The last couple of weeks largely consisted in the community needing to express a great deal of hurt and officials needing to absorb that pain,” he says. “Now it's time for us to be acting.”
He returned to the campaign trail the next day.