A South Bend, Indiana, police officer who shot and killed Eric Logan, a Black resident, last June, will not be charged in the death, a special prosecutor announced Friday. However, the officer does face unrelated charges of soliciting a prostitute.
Special prosecutor Ric Hertel said that Sgt. Ryan O’Neill was justified in his actions when he shot Logan, 54, in the parking lot of an apartment complex while responding to reports of car break-ins on June 16.
O’Neill, who is white, said Logan approached him with a knife, which prompted him to shoot twice, striking Logan in the upper abdomen once. Logan’s family denies that he had a knife and said Logan was walking to his mother’s house after a family gathering.
O’Neill resigned from the force after Logan’s death. The case became a cloud over then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign.
“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,” Hertel said in a report released Friday.
“O’Neill must have had a subjective belief that he was going to sustain serious bodily injury,” Hertel said, according to The Associated Press.
As Hertel presented his investigation during a news conference Friday, people in the audience interrupted him and some accused officials of lying.
“The only thing that’s clear is you were hired to stand up here and tell us lies,” one person yelled during the conference, The Indianapolis Star reported.
O’Neill did not turn on his body camera until after he shot Logan. The dashcam in his police car was also not active at the time of the shooting, and security cameras at the apartment complex were not recording.
Footage from O’Neill’s body camera recorded the officer after the shooting telling another officer that O’Neill threw the knife at him.
Hertel said Friday that it was unclear “whether the shooting happened before the knife was thrown or after,” though he concluded that the detail didn’t matter since “there’s someone with a knife coming toward a police officer,” the South Bend Tribune reported.
Logan’s family and community activists criticized the South Bend police force for a shooting they saw as an excessive show of deadly force. After the shooting, the family filed a federal lawsuit against the O’Neill and the city of South Bend over Logan’s death, claiming O’Neill’s actions were racially charged.
“The misconduct was objectively unreasonable and undertaken with willfulness and reckless indifference to the rights of others,” their lawsuit stated. “In addition, the misconduct and excessive force, including use of deadly force … shocks the conscience.”
Court documents obtained by HuffPost last year show that O’Neill’s fellow police officers previously accused him of making racist and derogatory comments in front of other officers.
Though the city will not charge O’Neill in the fatal shooting, the former sergeant was charged Friday with official misconduct and public indecency over accusations that he solicited a prostitute a month before killing Logan, The New York Times reported.
Additionally, O’Neill faces two felony charges of official misconduct and ghost employment. O’Neill is accused of being nude and fondling “his genitals or the genital of another person” in May 2019. Indiana has a “ghost employment” rule that bans state officers and employees from engaging in work other than their official duties during work hours.
Harvey Mills, president of the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 36, reacted to the special prosecutor’s decision not to charge O’Neill for the shooting by noting in a statement that “police officers never want to be put in the position where they have to use deadly force to defend their life.”
“They want to come to work, protect their community and go home to their families, just like everyone else,” Mills said.
Mills added that the other charges, “if true, are disappointing and would certainly be against department policy. South Bend police officers know they have to constantly earn the trust of our community and are always held responsible for their actions.”
Buttigieg, who dropped out of the presidential race this week, also issued a statement Friday:
Today’s findings show the importance of an outside and independent investigation in bringing information to light. Our city and country face ongoing challenges in addressing the future of policing and confronting the pain and mistrust caused by systemic racism, and I will continue to work in our community to help build a future of greater justice, equality and safety.