The basic tenants of policing are to protect and serve the community. It’s ironic these mandates can place an officer’s life at risk. 

At approximately 3:30 am on June 16, 2019, in South Bend, Indiana, Sgt. O’Neill responded to a parking lot near the Central High Apartments. A report was received a male in dark clothing was observed breaking into parked vehicles. The suspect was not reported to be black or white.  Upon the sergeant’s arrival at the scene, he observed a male, Eric Logan, partially situated in a parked vehicle.

The first action taken by O’Neill was to inquire of Logan if he owned the vehicle in question.  Asking questions is a positive step in deescalating a situation.  Logan replied, that yes, the car is his. Reportedly, O’Neill indicated that he observed a knife in Logan’s right hand.

Sergeant Ryan O’Neill was identified as the officer involved in the fatal shooting of Eric Logan. (South Bend Police)

 

Allegedly, O’Neill drew his firearm upon identifying a threat (a man with a knife) as he simultaneously tried to deescalate the threat in front of him by ordering Logan to drop the knife as O’Neill walked backward to create space between them. This scenario, if done correctly, demonstrates that O’Neill sought to gain Logan’s compliance as the sergeant drew his weapon. Once Logan lunged at O’Neill with the knife raised, O’Neill fired twice, striking Logan once in the chest. O’Neill transmitted a radio call reporting shots fired, noting that he was injured and was in need of an ambulance. Officers responded and Logan was transported to the hospital, where he died.

Actions taken by an armed assailant against an officer determines whether an officer’s response is appropriate based on the totality of the facts and circumstances present by the officer as per the policy and procedure of the police department and the guidelines of the landmark case of Graham v Conner.

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Presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg, upon being updated about the OIS, canceled his agenda on the campaign trail to return to his community to meet with residents to listen to their complaints and to reassure the community the facts and circumstances regarding the shooting will be properly investigated by an outside agency.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg took criticism from his constituents this weekend after an OIS in South Bend. (Wikipedia)

 

Buttigieg walked into a meeting filled with protestors. He was openly concerned with the complaints he heard, but he stood his ground when he was asked his position regarding Black Lives Matter. His response as Mayor, not a Presidential candidate, was appropriate when he stated, he did “not have evidence that there has been discipline for racist behavior.” A protestor responded, “You running for president and you expect black people to vote for you?”

Buttigieg told her, “I’m not asking for your vote,” to which she replied, “you ain’t gonna get it either.” 

Mayor Buttigieg is receiving a lot of criticism for his statement.  I believe he stated that he was focused on meeting his duty as mayor and wasn’t focused on the election for president. 

It is my experience as a law enforcement officer and an educator that a high percentage of people do not understand under what circumstances an officer is permitted to use physical or deadly force. The interaction which occurred between O’Neill and Logan up until O’Neill fired twice are key in determining whether the use of deadly physical force was reasonable based on the totality of the circumstances.  All OIS situations require an extensive investigation pursuant to meeting department policy and procedure along with the guidelines of Graham vs. Connor.

Eric Logan (left) reportedly came at Sgt. O’Neill (right) with a knife before O’Neill opened fire.

 

In Graham v. Connor [i] the United States Supreme Court held: “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”  In Tennessee v. Garner, the Court held that all Fourth Amendment seizures are judged by a “totality of circumstances.” [ii] Putting these two standards together, it becomes clear that a court must review an officer’s use of force by the Totality of circumstances from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.

Prosecutor Ken Cotter and County-Metro Homicide Commander Mike Grzegorek held a news conference on Monday, June 17, 2019. A timeline of events was released. Cotter stated, “People have a right to know kind of what’s going on with our law enforcement. Our job is to determine whether or not a crime has occurred and whether we can prove it.”

St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit is investigating the shooting, which reportedly happened around 3:30 a.m. near Central High Apartments.

 

According to Cotter, emergency dispatch received a call at 3:23 a.m. Sunday from a person who heard glass shatter and saw a person wearing dark clothing, looking into cars. Four minutes later, South Bend Police received the call, and at 3:30 a.m., Sgt. O’Neill tells dispatch he arrived at Central High Apartments.

The county prosecutor reports there is no body camera footage of the shooting since O’Neill’s body camera was not activated. No adjacent buildings captured video of the incident either. However, detectives have reviewed body camera video from the officers who responded to the call as backup.

Since O’Neill was dispatched to a ‘suspicious person’ call, his lights and sirens were not activated in order to avoid scaring off the individual, officials say. That’s the reason his camera did not activate.

Cotter further said the knife found at the shooting was taken from a vehicle on Taylor Street. The owner of the tactical knife has identified it as his.

The purse was taken from a different vehicle and also was identified by its owner.

 DNA tests and fingerprinting are still pending, since the prosecutor’s office may send the stolen items to a private laboratory, since it could take months for results to come back from Indiana State Police, the entity that typically performs the tests.

 

In all officials say six vehicles were broken into two on Taylor Street, two on William Street, and two in the Central High Apartments parking lot.

Currently, Sgt. O’Neill and the late Eric Logan remain the only shooting witnesses. At least six police officers have been interviewed in addition to the owners of the six vehicles that were broken into.

Sgt O’Neill remains on paid administrative leave which is the standard procedure when a police officer is involved in an OIS. 

An Officer Involved Shooting is very troubling for all parties involved.  First, there is the family of the decedent, along with loved ones and friends who are rightfully upset about an incident which doesn’t make any sense to them. Second, there is the community which has the right to be concerned.  Third, we have the officer who needs to deal with the circumstances which led to him taking the life of another, the officer’s family is upset, as are friends, loved ones, and fellow officers. Fourth, OIS incidents are dividing our country and will continue to do so until open lines of communication are in place with every police department with the community it serves and protects.  

The easiest way to offset the next Officer Involved Shooting is compliance with the directions of an officer. 

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