INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A white former South Bend police officer was justified in the fatal shooting of an African American man last summer, but he was charged Friday with soliciting a prostitute a month before the shooting that roiled then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, a special prosecutor announced.
Special prosecutor Ric Hertel was appointed to lead an investigation into former 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 Hertel released Friday.
The shooting wasn’t captured on video because O’Neill’s dash and body cameras weren’t activated, and nearby security cameras didn’t record the incident. Hertel said other evidence showed the officer had cause to fear for his life.
A probable cause affidavit filed with the charges states that O’Neill was in his police cruiser, in uniform, on May 16, 2019, when he pulled up next to a woman and solicited her for a sex act. He paid her $20.
O’Neill was booked into the St. Joseph County Jail on Friday morning and later released. Online court records don’t list an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Hertel said that his investigation of Logan’s shooting found 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 those 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.
Black Lives Matter’s South Bend chapter, which planned a Friday evening vigil at the site where Logan was fatally shot, decried Hertel’s decision.
“Black people across this nation, and the world, know that justice for Black lives is seldom realized. We are deeply saddened by the Special Prosecutor’s decision, but we are not surprised,” the group said in a statement.