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South Bend Town Hall To Discuss Shooting Of Black Man Gets Heated


Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg faces a challenge in his day job. He is mayor of South Bend, Ind., where he held a tense town hall meeting on Sunday. He attended with the city's police chief to discuss a white officer's fatal shooting of a black man. NPR's Scott Neuman reports.

SCOTT NEUMAN, BYLINE: It was Father's Day when 54-year-old Eric Logan was shot and killed by police sergeant Ryan O'Neill in the parking lot of a South Bend apartment complex. O'Neill says that Logan had a knife and didn't respond to repeated orders to drop it. Then he says Logan threw the knife at him. But the officer's body camera wasn't turned on, and that's turned into suspicion. Here's Buttigieg with South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski fielding a question from the audience.


PETE BUTTIGIEG: So if I understood your question correctly, it's about a feature where when a gun is removed from its holster, that is - then that automatically activates the body camera. Is that...


BUTTIGIEG: I'm sorry, I can't hear - I cannot hear Jordan (ph) speak if you're shouting over him. Please.

NEUMAN: It's not the first time that race in the police department has tested Buttigieg in his tenure as South Bend mayor. Seven years ago, he fired the city's first black police chief amid allegations that he had illegally recorded phone calls of senior white officers using racist slurs. And this weekend, there was anger over how police handled the aftermath of a shooting incident outside a bar. That troubled relationship is something that Buttigieg has acknowledged.


BUTTIGIEG: There is a lot beneath the surface when it comes to trust and legitimacy around policing and race in our city.

NEUMAN: Mayor Pete, as many residents in the city refer to Buttigieg, says he will appoint an independent prosecutor in the Logan shooting case.


BUTTIGIEG: And I want to let you know that I agree with this recommendation as well, and that I notified the prosecutors that I would like for him to take that step.


NEUMAN: At 37, Buttigieg has so far succeeded in standing out from the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates. But last week's shooting in South Bend is likely to put the spotlight on his difficulty in making traction with black voters.

Scott Neuman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF YAGYA'S "SNOWFLAKE 2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.