Pete Buttigieg Fumbles Through Answer About South Bend Shooting

Photo: NBC

On June 16, a South Bend, IN, police officer shot and killed 54-year-old Eric Logan while responding to a report of a man breaking into cars with a knife. The officer’s body camera was not turned on at the time. South Bend mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg took a few days off the campaign trail to respond to the shooting, which is still very much unresolved.

On Thursday night, during the second night of the first Democratic primary debate, moderator Rachel Maddow directly asked Buttigieg about the shooting, and why South Bend’s six percent black police force doesn’t represent the city’s actual demographics.

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Buttigieg’s response, which was clearly well-rehearsed, hit some of the right notes, starting with an emphatic acknowledgement of his own fault in not pushing for more diversity among his city’s officers, but ultimately tried to toe a neutral, safe line through the tragic situation—and then the wheels started to come off.

Gov. John Hickenlooper asked, “Why has it taken so long,” to solve the problem of disproportionate police shootings, and mentioning his own record in diversifying police departments.

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“I think the real question Americans should be asking is ‘Why, five years after Ferguson, every city doesn’t have this level of police accountability?’” Hickenlooper asked.

Buttigieg began to respond, mentioning that he’d worked so hard to increase accountability in his department that he was denounced by the Fraternal Order of Police. But then California Rep. Eric Swalwell burst in, literally out of (stage) left field, with a straight shot at Buttigieg.

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“If the camera wasn’t on and that was the policy then you should fire the [police] chief,” Swalwell interjected.

“So, under Indiana law,” Buttigieg tried to respond. “This will be investigated, and there will be accountability for the officer involved.”

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“But you’re the mayor, you should fire the chief, if that’s the policy and someone died,” Swalwell broke in again, as Buttigieg glared daggers at him.

He didn’t get a chance to respond again, because Marianne Williamson broke in then to argue in favor of reparations—a good point, but one that definitely took the heat off Buttigieg, leading straight into Kamala Harris’s biggest moment of the night so far. Read about that here. 

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About the author

Jack Crosbie

Contributing Writer, Splinter