South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is returning funds donated to his campaign by Steve Patton, a Chicago attorney who worked to block the release of the video showcasing the shooting of Laquan McDonald, a Black teen who was gunned down by a Chicago police officer in 2014.
Following backlash the 2020 candidate faced after the Associated Press reported on the fundraiser's monetary contributions, Buttigieg's campaign also confirmed to NBC Chicago that Patton will be removed as a sponsor of his Chicago fundraiser that's set to be held Friday.
"Transparency and justice for Laquan McDonald is more important than a campaign contribution," 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."
Emails released by the city of Chicago revealed Patton’s role in keeping information about the shooting from the public. He was shown to have advised against releasing the video until after an investigation was concluded, and was also found to have withheld evidence during multiple police misconduct cases.
“The worst case scenario is his people know and they just don't care, or they don't know and haven't vetted him thoroughly," said Charlene Carruthers, former head of Black Lives Matter group BYP100 to NBC Chicago. "If they do know, it's indicative of so much of what we see with folks in the LGBTQ community — particularly white men who may hold a sexual identity, but their politics don't line up with the liberation of the people who are also in community with them."
It's possible that Buttigieg was quick to cut ties with Patton because of the criticism he faced for his handling of police brutality in his own city. He has also been criticized for firing South Bend's first Black police chief shortly after taking office, as well as prioritizing the city's downtown area over its neighborhoods.