News & Politics

GoFundMe Cancels Fundraiser to Defend South Bend Cop, Calls Shooting a 'Hate Crime'

GoFundMe Cancels Fundraiser to Defend South Bend Cop, Calls Shooting a 'Hate Crime'
Fundly screenshot of South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O'Neill.

The crowdfunding website GoFundMe canceled a fundraiser supporting the defense of South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, the white police officer who shot and killed Erick Logan, a 54-year-old black man. O’Neill alleged that Logan was breaking into cars with an 8-inch knife and threatened him before the officer had to shoot in self-defense. O’Neill was wearing his body camera but did not turn it on. Black Lives Matter activists have called for O’Neill to be fired.

The police union accused Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for president, of accusing the police of racism for political gain. They have demanded Buttigieg recuse himself from any decisions regarding the investigation into the shooting. In turn, Buttigieg has asked the Department of Justice to intervene in the case.

It would seem that a company like GoFundMe should remain neutral in such a dispute. Members of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in South Bend set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to support O’Neill’s defense, but GoFundMe canceled it, condemning the FOP for trying to defend a “hate crime.”

“Anti-police activists must have pressured GoFundme into canceling our campaign to help Sgt. Ryan O’Neill pay for his legal defense in a civil lawsuit filed against him,” South Bend FOP President Harvey Mills said in a statement. “Shockingly, GoFundMe told us that they canceled the campaign because it was in support of a hate crime.”

“This is fundamentally wrong and I’m shocked that a company would accuse a police officer of a hate crime simply for defending himself from an armed attacker,” Mills added. “I find it truly offensive that GoFundMe would cancel our campaign to defend a police officer who hasn’t been accused of a crime while they freely allow violent groups like Antifa to raise money to support criminal acts that have been on the news recently.”

The FOP president was likely referring to the violence against Quillette editor Andy Ngo, who was violently assaulted by antifa marchers who beat him and threw milkshakes allegedly filled with quick-dry cement at him.

Mills launched another fundraiser on Fundly, raising more than $33,000 in less than 24 hours.

“Sgt. Ryan O’Neill is being vilified by anti-police activists and Democrat Mayor and presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for defending his life when he was attacked by a convicted felon armed with an eight-inch hunting knife,” the petition begins.

“Mayor Buttigieg has repeatedly shown that he’s more concerned about boosting his own presidential political campaign than ensuring a fair investigation about an incident where a veteran police officer was forced to defend himself when a dangerous felon attacked him with an eight-inch hunting knife,” Mills said.

“On a national TV debate, the mayor called our entire police force racist while another candidate insisted that Buttigieg fire the police chief. Since this incident is now part of the accusations and political posturing of presidential politics, Mayor Buttigieg must do the right thing and recuse himself from any further decisions related to this matter,” he added.

The FOP narrated the events of Sunday, June 16. O’Neill, a 19-year veteran of the department, received a call about a man breaking into cars at an apartment complex. “Sgt. O’Neill drove to the scene and observed a man, later identified as Eric Logan, with only his legs sticking out from the front seat of a car. Thinking the man may be the car’s owner, Sgt. O’Neill got out of his patrol car and asked the man if this was his car. The man claimed it was.”

“However, when the man stood up, Sgt. O’Neill observed that his hand was bleeding, and a woman’s purse was halfway stuck in his clothing. When Sgt. O’Neill asked him about the purse, the six-foot-two suspect stood up and raised an eight-inch hunting knife over his head and began moving directly toward the officer. Sgt. O’Neill immediately began backing up and loudly ordered the suspect the drop the knife, three separate times,” the fundraiser claims.

“Instead of dropping the knife, the suspect continued to move toward Sgt. O’Neill. When Sgt. O’Neill ran out of room to retreat, he fired his duty weapon twice, hitting the suspect once — just as the suspect hurled the hunting knife at him. The blade hit Sgt. O’Neill, causing minor injuries to his forearm…  Sgt. O’Neill coordinated the medical response and worked with other officers, who rather than wait for EMS, rushed the suspect to the hospital in a police car.”

“Police are taught to treat a knife as a deadly weapon, because a suspect armed with a knife within 21 feet of an officer is as much of a deadly threat as a suspect with a gun,” Mills explained. “In this case, the suspect, armed with an eight-inch hunting knife was less than 10 feet from the officer and refused multiple commands to drop the weapon. In light of self-defense law and police training, this shooting was completely justified.”

Sadly, without the footage from O’Neill’s camera, it is more difficult to corroborate the officer’s story. The victim’s family disagrees with the policeman’s account. South Bend needs an unbiased investigation.

Buttigieg did not directly call the “entire police force racist,” but he did say, “Until we move policing out from the shadow of systemic racism, whatever this particular incident teaches us, we will be left with the bigger problem of the fact that there’s a wall of mistrust put up, one racist act at a time. Not just from what’s happened in the past but from what’s happening around the country in the present.”

That comment connected the shooting to the Black Lives Matter narrative of police racism.

Buttigieg is indeed caught in a pickle. While police mistrust him, members of South Bend’s black community have long faulted him for firing the city’s black police chief, Darryl Boykins, in 2012 over allegations that Boykins improperly recorded white police officers making racist remarks. The recordings were never released.

An impartial investigation into Erick Logan’s death is sorely needed. Contrary to the claims of activists, it is far from clear whether O’Neill abused his position and engaged in unnecessary force, much less a “hate crime.”

GoFundMe’s decision to prematurely judge O’Neill guilty of a hate crime and to remove this fundraiser is despicable. The company should apologize and restore the fundraiser.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.