South Bend officer involved in fatal shooting resigns from force

South Bend officer involved in fatal shooting resigns from force

By Howard Dukes South Bend Tribune, Ind.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Ryan O’Neill, the officer who fatally shot Eric Logan last month, has resigned from the Police Department.

The local Fraternal Order of Police lodge said in a news release Monday night that the resignation is effective immediately.

The release attributed the move to stress, national media attention, a lawsuit filed by Logan’s family and “hateful things said on social media.”

“Sgt. O’Neill did his job and was forced to defend his own life from a convicted felon who was armed with an eight-inch hunting knife,” Harvey Mills, the FOP president, said in the release. “We’re confident that the investigation into the shooting will determine that the action he took was justified based on the law and his training.”

The release also pointed out that a special prosecutor is investigating the shooting to determine whether criminal charges are warranted, and that O’Neill could have been subject to discipline by the Police Department.

O’Neill and his wife have three children, including a newborn.

“These fights are just too much for Sgt. O’Neill and his family to undertake right now,” Mills said in the release.

Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski confirmed Monday night that he had received a resignation letter from O’Neill but declined to comment.

O’Neill shot Logan on June 16 in a downtown parking lot after responding to reports of car break-ins. Authorities have said Logan approached O’Neill with a fixed-blade knife and ignored repeated orders to drop it. The knife had been taken from a car in the area, authorities have said.

O’Neill did not have his body camera turned on at the time of the shooting.

The shooting has drawn national media coverage because of Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s run for president. It has also sparked several protests, calls for police reform, questions about the city’s body camera and use-of-force policies, and new attention to the city’s difficulty in recruiting African-American police officers.

O’Neill also has drawn attention for accusations by two other officers that he made racist remarks about biracial couples and Muslims in 2008. The allegations were included in two recent federal lawsuits.

During a deposition, Ruszkowski acknowledged he was aware of the prior allegations against O’Neill but said the officer was promoted to sergeant in 2015 after he passed a polygraph test.

A crowdfunding campaign by the FOP to raise money for O’Neill has raised nearly $80,000 so far. The union has said the money would help defend the officer in court, though questions have been raised about whether O’Neill will be on the hook for any out-of-pocket legal fees.

Logan’s brother, Tyree Bonds, said O’Neill’s decision does not alter the family’s plan to pursue its lawsuit and that he is still hopeful about the outcome of the special prosecutor’s investigation. He declined further comment.

Jorden Giger, a local activist who has organized many of the rallies to demand reform, said O’Neill’s resignation was a positive move.

“The fact that he is resigning is a good thing,” he said, adding that he and other activists still want to work with the city on addressing concerns about the Police Department.

The FOP, in defending O’Neill, has also criticized Buttigieg, accusing the mayor of failing to defend police officers, playing politics with the Logan shooting and making divisive comments “solely for his political gain and not for the health of the city he serves.”

Buttigieg, who learned of the resignation Monday evening, said in an emailed statement, “Our efforts to strengthen trust between law enforcement and community members continue. We will await results of the independent criminal investigation, and apply any lessons learned to our work on the future of the Police Department and the community.”

©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)