South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign said Friday that it was returning money donated and raised by a Chicago attorney who had tried to block the release of footage showing a fatal police shooting of a black teenager in 2014.
Steve Patton donated $5,600 to the Buttigieg campaign in June and had been scheduled to co-host a fundraiser for the Democratic presidential candidate on Friday, The New York Times reported. The Associated Press was first to report on Patton sponsoring the fundraiser.
“Transparency and justice for Laquan McDonald is more important than a campaign contribution,” Buttigieg spokesperson Chris Meagher said in a statement. “We are returning the money he contributed to the campaign and the money he has collected. He is no longer a co-host for the event and will not be attending.”
The reversal comes as Buttigieg struggles to win support from nonwhite voters. The mayor had just 2% of support from nonwhite voters in Nevada and less than 1% in South Carolina in CNN’s latest polls in the two early-voting states.
“It’s frustrating,” Buttigieg told reporters at an event in Chicago on Friday when asked about the controversy. “I’m going to figure out how it happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
CNN has reached out to Patton for comment.
Seventeen-year-old McDonald was shot and killed on October 20, 2014, by now-former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Van Dyke was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison.
Video from the police dashboard camera that captured McDonald’s shooting and contradicted police accounts was not released for 13 months, until a judge ordered it. Patton was the city attorney at the time, and the city argued the video could not be released while the FBI and the US attorney investigated the shooting.
Once it was released the footage sparked protests, a Justice Department civil rights investigation, criticism of then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the eventual ouster of the police superintendent. Earlier this month, an inspector general report outlined what it described as an elaborate cover-up by 16 officers and supervisors, including Van Dyke.
Buttigieg’s campaign faced one of its most challenging weeks earlier this year after an officer-involved shooting in South Bend. The shooting brought attention to the palpable tension between the city’s African American community and its police department, which has grown less diverse during Buttigieg’s tenure.
The following month, after Buttigieg had taken time away from the campaign trail to address the shooting, the mayor outlined new aspects of his plan to combat racial inequality, if elected president in 2020.
Buttigieg’s first major decision as mayor in 2012 was met by outrage from community activists, when he ousted the city’s first black police chief. Buttigieg asked Darryl Boykins to step down in the midst of a contentious situation centering on a federal investigation into tapes of recorded phone conversations inside the South Bend police department and allegations that the tapes contained racist comments about Boykins and that Boykins had threatened subordinates. The mayor subsequently named two white officers to lead the department.