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.
“O’Neill must have had a subjective belief that he was going to sustain serious bodily injury,” he said. O’Neill resigned from the South Bend Police Department in July.
The news conference was repeatedly interrupted by people shouting, including by a woman who was removed after she yelled expletives and accused authorities of lying.
“The only thing that’s clear is you were hired to stand up here and tell us lies,” another 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.
The Associated Press left messages seeking comment from Brian Coffman, a Chicago-based lawyer for Logan’s family, on Hertel’s announcement.
While O’Neill won’t be charged in the shooting, he does face two felony charges - official misconduct and ghost employment - and a misdemeanor count of public indecency.
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.
His attorney, John Kautzman, released a statement saying “we appreciate the careful analysis and review of this matter and the Prosecutor’s conclusion that Ryan O’Neill acted legally and reasonably.”
“We’ve always believed the evidence proves that Ryan O’Neill was justified in defending himself on the date in question and did not engage in any improper conduct related to this encounter,” Kautzman said.
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.
Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.