A white former South Bend police officer whose fatal shooting of a Black man last year roiled then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign pleaded guilty Tuesday to a felony charge stemming from an alleged on-duty sexual encounter he had a month before that shooting.
Ryan O’Neill pleaded guilty to a ghost employment count under a plea agreement in which a special prosecutor dropped a felony charge of official misconduct and a misdemeanor public indecency charge, the South Bend Tribune reported.
St. Joseph Superior Court Judge John Marnocha accepted the plea agreement and scheduled O’Neill for sentencing Oct. 27. The plea agreement calls for O’Neill to serve no jail time and spend two years on 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.
A probable cause affidavit filed in March with the sexual-encounter charges stated 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.