Crowdfunding effort booms after GoFundMe controversy for South Bend officer in shooting

The city’s police union has moved the crowdfunding campaign, claiming “anti-police activists” pressured GoFundMe


By Howard Dukes
South Bend Tribune, Ind.

SOUTH BEND. Ind. — The city’s police union has moved the crowdfunding campaign for the officer involved in the shooting of Eric Logan from GoFundMe to another site, claiming “anti-police activists” pressured GoFundMe.

An official with GoFundMe said the O'Neill page was taken down because the site does not allow fundraising for a legal defense in a case involving a killing.

Pictured is  Sgt. Ryan O’Neill. (Photo/South Bend Police)
Pictured is Sgt. Ryan O’Neill. (Photo/South Bend Police)

The move, and the resulting publicity, including a national TV appearance, drove the fundraising to new heights, with almost $60,000 donated by Wednesday afternoon.

The campaign is now on fundly.com/defend-officer-ryan-o-neill. Harvey Mills, president of FOP Lodge 36, said GoFundMe opted to cancel the campaign for Sgt. Ryan O’Neill.

The original page description said it had been started to help O’Neill pay “legal defense and communications” costs. Logan’s family filed a lawsuit against the city after, authorities say, O’Neill shot Logan on June 16 while investigating reports of a car burglary. O’Neill has said Logan approached him with a raised knife and ignored orders to drop the weapon.

The new page includes a letter from O'Neill that includes a reference to Mayor Pete Buttigieg's run for the White House and reads in part, "Like so many American families, ours is focused on loving each other and working hard. Being thrown into the middle of a Presidential campaign was something we never anticipated. The support we've received is tremendous and has helped to balance the intense pressure we're under."

Ryan Stubenrauch, spokesman for the FOP, said that he was told that GoFundMe had received complaints about the campaign.

Stubenrauch said that he did not know who lodged the complaints, but he responded with an email noting O’Neill was not charged with a crime but was a defendant in a civil lawsuit. A release by the FOP on Monday also defended O’Neill’s actions and said the shooting was justified.

Harvey Mills, president of the South Bend FOP, said in a statement, “Shockingly, GoFundMe told us that they cancelled 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.”

Stubenrauch said the response from GoFundMe’s community management team stated that it is the site’s sole discretion to cancel campaigns seeking to raise money for the legal defense of alleged crimes associated with hate and other offenses.

Stubenrauch is an Ohio-based attorney who works for the marketing consulting firm Communication Counsel. He said the FOP hired his firm to handle communications because the union was receiving so many media requests.

Stubenrach said the GoFundMe page was up for a little less than 24 hours before he was informed shortly before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday that it was disabled and any donations refunded.

Also on Tuesday night, Mills appeared on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News to talk about Buttigieg's statements on the Logan shooting. During the appearance, he mentioned GoFundMe's decision and that the fundraising effort had moved to a new site.

The page had raised more than $5,000 on GoFundMe before it was canceled.

©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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