Roughly one week ago, there was a police-involved shooting between a white officer and a black man in South Bend, Indiana that compelled Democrat Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a prominent 2020 presidential candidate, to temporarily abandon the campaign trail to deal with the fallout of the incident.
But a town hall meeting he held with the police chief to address local community concerns quickly descended into anger and chaos as people shouted questions, demanded answers, and harshly criticized the candidate for his handling of the situation.
Buttigieg addresses shooting
Fox News reported that Buttigieg informed his constituents that he had requested a federal civil rights investigation by the Justice Department as well as the appointment of a local independent investigator to uncover all of the facts in the incident.
That June 16 shooting involved a white officer named Sgt. Ryan O’Neill who responded to reports of someone breaking into vehicles. The officer soon encountered a 54-year-old black man named Eric Logan, who was reportedly shot and killed after allegedly threatening O’Neill with a knife.
Unfortunately, the officer’s body camera was reportedly not turned on during the encounter, so the exact details of what occurred remain unclear. O’Neill has been placed on administrative leave.
Buttigieg accepted responsibility for failing to both recruit more minority officers and to require the use of body cameras during encounters with suspects, but many members of the crowd seemed unwilling to accept what he had to say on the few occasions he was actually able to get a word in edgewise amid the constant heckling and shouting.
Community on edge
One particularly stark video clip from the meeting showed Buttigieg sitting silently, mouth partially opened as if searching for words to speak, while he was harangued and harshly criticized for “lying” to the people and treating the incident as a “joke.”
Democrat Pete Buttigieg is confronted at a town hall on a white police officer who killed a black man:
“Look at the man who’s talking to you, Peter!”
“Stop Lying! Stop lying!”
“It’s not a joke, Pete!”
“Answer The Question!”
Buttigieg just stares with a blank look on his face pic.twitter.com/aftPSZd0op
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) June 23, 2019
Another clip featured an audience member sarcastically suggesting that Buttigieg needed to get back on the campaign trail in South Carolina so he could say “All Lives Matter,” a critique that has stuck with him ever since he first uttered that phrase several years ago when the Black Lives Matter movement first gained prominence.
Things are still tense at this South Bend town hall with Mayor Buttigieg.
Moderator asks audience shouting questions to be respectful of the mayor’s schedule.
One man yells back:
“You gotta get back to South Carolina like you was yesterday?” pic.twitter.com/xzGq6i0iRx
— Aaron Franco (@AFrancoTX) June 23, 2019
Still another clip showed how the moderator of the event essentially lost all control of the situation as some members of the audience left their seats and approached the stage to take the microphone and speak their piece.
Yikes, this Mayor #Buttigieg town hall discussing (the latest) police shooting of an unarmed Black man, is a train wreck in progress. Moderator has lost control of the room. Where is #SouthBend’s communications team – or security – at this venue? #Indiana #SouthBend pic.twitter.com/fSVNqPk696
— Alphonso Van Marsh (@AlphonsoVM) June 23, 2019
“I don’t want to seem defensive, but we have taken a lot of steps,” Buttigieg asserted. “They clearly haven’t been enough. But I can’t accept the suggestion that we haven’t done anything.”
While it remains to be seen what exactly happened and how the aftermath of the shooting will play out, it is obvious that Buttigieg’s South Bend constituents are none too pleased with how the mayor has handled things thus far.
It looks like the growing calls for him to drop out of the presidential race and focus his attention on the problems in his own city will only increase going forward.