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On Sunday, rather than celebrate his husband Chasten’s birthday or spend time in debate prep, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg faced a near biblical series of events. He woke up to news that one person had been shot and killed at a pub in his hometown, and that 10 people had been injured. Later in the day, he faced protesters, profanities and criticisms from black constituents concerned over the policing situation in the wake of an officer-involved shooting last week. Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC carried images from the emotional scene for hours last night, revealing an open wound between minority members of South Bend and the city’s mostly white police department.
THE BACKSTORY, from my latest in POLITICO Magazine: “What Mayor Pete Couldn’t Fix About the South Bend Cops”:
“In 2014, during [Buttigieg’s] first term in office, black officers made up more than 10 percent of the 253-person department. By last year, that figure had dwindled to 5 percent. Contrary to its national image as a white, working class, Roman Catholic town, South Bend is 40 percent nonwhite—26 percent black and 14 percent Hispanic. And yet its police force each year under Buttigieg has looked a little less like the city itself.”
“The names of the two officers involved in the shooting Sunday were already familiar to many of the city’s black and Hispanic residents and activists. According to court documents, Ryan O’Neill, the officer who fired the fatal shot, had been named in two lawsuits related to racially motivated misconduct. In 2008—several years before Buttigieg took office—a man named Derrick Burton claimed that O’Neill called him a “stupid n-----” and “tazed me unconscious.”
“The June 16 incident also involved a second officer, Aaron Knepper, who drove the wounded man, Eric Logan, to the hospital in a squad car. He had called for an ambulance but decided not to wait, according the account he gave officials. (Logan, who was shot once in the abdomen, died later.) Knepper also had a history. In 2016, he was the subject of public protests that called for his dismissal because of a series of incidents over the years. Scott Ruszkowski, Buttigieg’s police chief, pulled Knepper off the streets, citing threats to the officer. Four months later, Knepper was back on the beat.”
Read more here.
WHAT’S NEXT: As the investigators continue their probe of the shooting, the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office announced on Thursday that Prosecuting Attorney Kenneth Cotter hasn’t yet decided whether to appoint a special prosecutor in the case. Buttigieg has said he would support an independent investigation by the Department of Justice, and that he’ll write a letter to the DOJ. Also, Brian Coffman, the family attorney, will file suit against the city today.
IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: Buttigieg’s current crisis has roots that extend long before his time as mayor. To solve them, he has instituted implicit racial bias training, the use of body cameras (which in this case didn’t work), and undertaken efforts to increase transparency and diversity on the police force.
And yet this fraught moment is filled with irony: Buttigieg’s greatest strength and differentiation in the 2020 field—that he’s a mayor and an executive in charge of real-world, messy decisions—is cutting a different way for him this week. Because he’s a mayor in charge of real-world, messy decisions. In some ways, a sitting senator or governor is insulated from a raw moment like this. For a candidate who has risen on the back of viral moments, Buttigieg is also finding himself on the other end of them this week: The out-of-context video that makes it look like Buttigieg is telling a black woman he doesn’t want her vote, and later black constituents lobbing profanities at him.
He will surely be asked about the crisis on Thursday night’s debate. What he says—and does—over the next few weeks or months, will go a long way to deciding how viable his candidacy is on a national level.
Good morning, and welcome to IMPORTANTVILLE. A happy belated birthday to Chasten Buttigieg, who turned 30 yesterday.
WHERE’S VEEP? He has lunch with the president today, and then heads to Baltimore for the 29th Annual Red, White and Blue Dinner.
WHERE’S PETE? He flies from South Bend to Miami today for debate prep.
FOR YOUR RADAR
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No big surprises for dialed-in Hoosiers already familiar with their records. You can read IndyStar’s Tony Cook for a deep dive on Verma’s past here.
Fox 59’s Dan Spehler lands a wide-ranging interview with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.
Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic “Pete Buttigieg’s Crash Course in Crisis”
The metaphor was so obvious, even cliché, but it was also inescapable: As Pete Buttigieg was driving here from Columbia for a town hall late Saturday afternoon, huge, dark clouds moved into the sunny sky, and a cold wind started blowing through the heat.
“We’re hoping to beat the rain,” Buttigieg told me over the phone, looking out the window, as the crowd and I were waiting for him to arrive. “Looks like something biblical is happening here.”
The South Bend, Indiana, mayor has had the most charmed rise of any 2020 candidate. Given the leap he’s made from an obscure small-city mayor to a top-tier presidential contender, his is arguably one of the most charmed political ascents ever in American politics. Yet there’s been no charm to the past week of his campaign. Back home, a white police officer’s fatal shooting of a black man armed with a knife has exploded years of built-up racial tension in the city. And for all the people nationally who’ve been dazzled by his knack for offering answers that seem to fit problems like puzzle pieces, the voters back home don’t seem satisfied by what the mayor has come up with so far.
Hanna Trudo, The Daily Beast: “‘Pete Has a Black Problem’: Top Black Leaders Say Buttigieg Is ‘Naive’ on Race”
A few weeks ago, a prominent black leader posed what seemed like a simple question to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg during a private meeting: Who in the African-American community back home supports you?
“He didn’t name anybody,” the leader said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “If he’s got young black supporters, they do have names.”
IMPORTANTVILLE TAKE: An endorsement from someone like State Rep. Robin Shackleford, the chair of Indiana Black Legislative Caucus, or U.S. Rep. André Carson—were those lawmakers inclined to offer one—could be useful to Buttigieg right about now.
That’s all for today. Thanks for reading and subscribing.