Ex-cop who shot Black man reaches plea on unrelated charge
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A white former South Bend police officer whose fatal shooting of a Black man last year roiled then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign has agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge stemming from an alleged on-duty sexual encounter he had a month before that shooting.
A plea agreement filed Wednesday calls for Ryan O’Neill to plead guilty to a ghost employment count, while prosecutors would drop a felony charge of official misconduct and a misdemeanor public indecency charge, the South Bend Tribune reported.
A probable cause affidavit filed in March with the sexual-encounter charges states that O’Neill was in his police cruiser, in uniform, on May 16, 2019, when he pulled up next to a woman and solicited her for a sex act. O’Neill paid her $20 before that sex act, it states.
A special prosecutor filed those charges against O’Neill, 44, in March after finding that he was justified in the unrelated fatal June 16, 2019, shooting of Eric Logan. O’Neill had said he shot Logan, 54, after he refused his orders to drop a knife while O’Neill was investigating a report of a person breaking into cars.
The special prosecutor, Ric Hertel, said during a March news conference that evidence showed Logan approached O’Neill with a knife and the officer feared for his safety when he fired two shots, one of which struck Logan in the upper abdomen.
O’Neill resigned weeks after the shooting. The fallout from Logan’s killing presented Buttigieg with some of the toughest moments of his bid to win the Democratic nomination for president.
Buttigieg, who ended his presidential campaign in March, stepped away from the campaign trail and faced angry residents at an emotional town hall in South Bend, a city of about 100,000 residents, a quarter of whom are Black.
A federal lawsuit that Logan’s family filed against O’Neill and the city of South Bend accusing O’Neill of using excessive deadly force is pending.
O’Neill is scheduled to appear Tuesday before a St. Joseph Superior Court judge on his plea agreement, which calls for him to serve no jail time and serve two years of probation, although that probation could end early with no violations. He would also agree not to seek or accept any public employment, including as a police officer.
If the judge rejects the plea deal, the case would proceed to trial, according to court documents.
That affidavit filed in March regarding the sexual-encounter charges states that O’Neill faces a ghost employment charge along with the two other counts but does not elaborate. Instead, it cites Indiana’s ghost employment statute, which includes among its descriptions of ghost employment a public employee who accepts property from a government entity for “duties not related” to their job.