Pete Buttigieg Cuts Ties With Donor Linked to Laquan McDonald Cover-Up – The New York Times

Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, facing criticism, distanced itself on Friday from a Chicago lawyer who tried to block the release of footage of the 2014 police shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald.

The lawyer, Steve Patton, gave $5,600 — the legal maximum contribution — to Mr. Buttigieg in June and was scheduled to co-host a fund-raiser for him on Friday. After The Associated Press reported on Mr. Patton’s involvement, Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign said that it would return the money and that Mr. Patton would not attend the fund-raiser.

“Transparency and justice for Laquan McDonald is more important than a campaign contribution,” a campaign spokesman, 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.”

Race has long been a political liability for Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who has struggled all year to gain support among black voters, a crucial Democratic constituency. In a national Quinnipiac poll released on Monday, he was at 11 percent among white voters but only 1 percent among black voters.

This Sunday, it will be five years since a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, killed Laquan, who was 17. Mr. Van Dyke, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to about seven years in prison, shot him 16 times.

Chicago officials refused to turn over dashboard video of the killing until a judge ordered them to do so in November 2015, and Mr. Patton, then the city’s top lawyer, was a leader in the effort to block the footage’s release.

The video — which contradicted police accounts of the killing — showed Laquan stepping away from Mr. Van Dyke, who began firing anyway and continued to fire even after Laquan was lying on the ground.

The fund-raiser with Mr. Patton threatened to draw attention away from Mr. Buttigieg’s performance in Tuesday’s debate, which was generally well-received, and back to Mr. Buttigieg’s record on race.

Early in his tenure as mayor, Mr. Buttigieg fired South Bend’s black police chief, a decision that still angers many residents. And in June, a white South Bend police officer killed a black man, Eric Logan, setting off a crisis that Mr. Buttigieg left the campaign trail to address. At a town-hall event after the killing, the anger was palpable, with one attendee shouting, “We don’t trust you.”

Mr. Buttigieg released what he called a “Douglass Plan” for black Americans in July, designed to reduce racial inequities, but it has not measurably increased his standing.

While Mr. Buttigieg is polling among the top five candidates in the sprawling Democratic field, his overall numbers have generally hovered around 4 percent nationally, according to polls taken before the debate. He has raised more money this year than any Democratic presidential candidate except Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Shane Goldmacher contributed reporting.