Buttigieg confronts officer-involved shooting in South Bend

Mayor Pete Buttigieg altered his presidential campaign schedule on Sunday to return to South Bend, Indiana, and respond to an officer-involved shooting that occurred in the city early on Sunday morning.

Buttigieg, flanked by the city’s police chief and the head of South Bend’s Common Council, held a news conference on Sunday evening, where he explained how lessons he learned from past officer-involved shootings guided him to get in front of cameras as soon as possible to reassure the city.

“One of the reasons we’re communicating upfront right now is because of lessons learned from members of the community,” Buttigieg said when he was asked about receiving criticism early in his tenure for his handling of other officer-involved shootings. “We’ve had prior cases of use of force incidents and officer-involved shootings where I hesitated, frankly, to get in front of cameras because we didn’t know very much, and it was out of our hands.”

He added: “What I was told by people in the community is that it is important to open channels of communication to try to be clear on where the city is, even if we don’t find ourselves in a position to be able to say or do much right away.”

The shooting, according to the mayor’s office, happened early on Sunday morning after officers “responded to a call for service regarding a person breaking into vehicles.”

“In the course of the incident response, the officer was involved in a shooting,” the statement from the mayor’s office said. And Buttigieg said during his press conference that the shooting led to a fatality.

Buttigieg was planning to be in New York on Monday, where he was scheduled to appear at an LGBTQ gala put on by the Democratic National Committee. But multiple Buttigieg campaign aides said the mayor was canceling that appearance — along with other meetings and at least one fundraiser he was meant to attend — to be in South Bend to respond to the shooting and meet with community members.

Chasten Buttigieg, the mayor’s husband, will speak at the committee event on Monday, instead.

Buttigieg said he and his office will meet with “faith leaders, neighborhood leaders, activists, anybody who cares enough about the city that they’re concerned to know, not only what happened, but how we as a community can do a good job of healing even as we wait for more facts to come in.”

“I know that whenever an incident like this happens, there is tremendous hurt that can come about. That the city will be hurting. And we will be striving to reach out to community members, to community leaders, to keep the channels of communication open, even as we wait for more facts to come in,” Buttigieg said. “And in meantime, the city and my own thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by this tragic case, even as we wait to learn more.”

Buttigieg said Sunday that the officer involved in the shooting is currently on administrative leave and the incident is being investigated by the Metro Homicide Unit under the direction of the St. Joseph County prosecutor. Once that investigation is over, the mayor said the shooting would be subject to an internal affairs investigation within the South Bend Police Department.

If the officer is found to have broken policy, Buttigieg said, the matter would go before the board of safety, which is a five-member board of civilians appointed by the mayor.

Buttigieg said, though, that he is waiting for more information like many in South Bend.

“The city,” he said, “is awaiting word from metro homicide like everyone else.”