Buttigieg Town Hall Becomes Heated Over Police Shooting

Attendee To Buttigieg: 'You gotta get back to South Carolina like you was yesterday?'

Pete Buttigieg / Getty Images

A Sunday town hall featuring South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg involved several heated audience outbursts over the recent police shooting of an African-American man, leaving the presidential hopeful facing questions over his handling of racial tensions in his community.

The town hall addressed the recent police shooting of a 54-year-old black man named Eric Logan. Sgt. Ryan O'Neill, the white police officer who shot Logan, has been placed on administrative leave in the wake of the shooting. His body camera reportedly did not activate during the shooting.

Buttigieg cancelled several campaign events and skipped an appearance in South Carolina to return to the Indiana town to address the shooting. Fox News reported that audience members interrupted the town hall several times with outbursts protesting the handling of the shooting.

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"You gotta get back to South Carolina like you was yesterday? Talk about ‘all lives matter' in South Carolina?" one audience member shouted.

In 2015, Buttigieg defended police officers in a State of the City speech:

There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses. We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.

When news of the speech resurfaced, Buttigieg said he would no longer use the phrase "all lives matter."

Buttigieg responded to audience criticism by defending the government's work, but also acknowledging some shortcomings. "I don't want to seem defensive but we have taken a lot of steps," Buttigieg said. He continued to say that the steps have not been sufficient, but that he could not accept the accusation that his government has not done anything.

Another audience member told Buttigieg "to get the racists off the streets," referring to the town's police officers, by the end of this week.

A Daily Beast report indicated that Buttigieg is struggling with African-American support. When asked to name someone in South Bend's African-American community who supports him, he was unable to.

"Pete has a black problem," Rep. Marcia Fudge (D., Oh.) told The Daily Beast. Another anonymous black leader said that Buttigieg's handling of racial tensions is perceived as being naive.