SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A special prosecutor announced Friday that a white former South Bend police officer was justified in the fatal shooting of an African American man last summer and that he won’t be charged in the killing that roiled then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.
Special prosecutor Ric Hertel was appointed to lead an investigation into Sgt. Ryan O’Neill’s fatal June 16 shooting of 54-year-old Eric Logan, who O’Neill said had refused his orders to drop a knife while the officer was investigating a report of a person breaking into cars.
Hertel said during a news conference that evidence showed Logan approached O’Neill with a knife and the officer feared for his safety when he fired two shots, one of which struck Logan in the upper abdomen.
“The use of deadly force by Sgt. O’Neill was justified based upon the threat and imminent danger presented by the sharp-edged knife in the right hand of Mr. Logan,” according to a report released Friday by Hertel.
He said that O’Neill, who resigned from the South Bend Police Department in July, had an abrasion on his left forearm from the knife.
The shooting wasn’t captured on video because O’Neill’s dash and body cameras weren’t activated, but Hertel said that the evidence showed that the officer had feared for his life.
“O’Neill must have had a subjective belief that he was going to sustain serious bodily injury,” he said during a news conference that was repeatedly interrupted by people shouting.
At one point a woman was removed from the room after shouting expletives and accusing authorities of lying about their findings.
“The only thing that’s clear is you were hired to stand up here and tell us lies,” one person shouted.
Logan’s family sued in federal court accusing O’Neill of using excessive deadly force. The lawsuit also names the city of South Bend as a defendant.
While O’Neill won’t be charged in the shooting, Hertel said the former officer has been charged with public indecency and misconduct for soliciting a prostitute a month before the shooting,
He faces two felony charges — official misconduct and ghost employment — and a misdemeanor count of public indecency. O’Neill is accused of appearing “in a state of nudity” and fondling “his genitals or the genital of another person” on May 16, 2019. The ghost employment charge accuses O’Neill of accepting property for “duties not related” to the police department.
Hertel said that there were seven car break-ins late on June 15 and early on June 16 in a two-block radius of the area where Logan was fatally shot. He said the knife Logan was carrying had been taken from one of the cars. A purse and a wallet were also among the items found on the scene after the shooting, he said.
The fallout from Logan’s fatal shooting presented Buttigieg with some of the toughest moments of the Democrat’s White House campaign.
Buttigieg, who ended his presidential campaign on Sunday, stepped away from the campaign trail and faced angry residents at an emotional town hall in South Bend, a city of about 100,000 residents, a quarter of whom are black. He acknowledged that his administration had failed to recruit more minority police officers and utilize police body cameras.
The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from Brian Coffman, a Chicago-based lawyer for Logan’s family.
Hertel was appointed to review the case in July after St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter stepped aside, saying he wanted to “avoid any appearance of impropriety, conflict of interest or influence.”