SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Pete Buttigieg’s effort to return to the Democratic presidential campaign was abruptly aborted Friday as a crisis over a police killing called him back home to Indiana and threatened to overshadow recent momentum in his 2020 candidacy.
Mr. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., withdrew from the South Carolina fish fry hosted by Representative James E. Clyburn, the most influential Democrat in the state, to attend a protest on behalf of the black man shot by the police last Sunday.
“It’s very sensitive right now,” Mr. Buttigieg told reporters before heading home after a presidential candidates forum in Miami, hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
“Part of my job is to promote healing,” he added, explaining he needed to address questions from “members of the community, especially the black community, who are concerned with whether they can trust the police.”
It was the second time since the shooting that Mr. Buttigieg canceled national appearances, mainly fund-raising events, to return to South Bend, where criticism of his handling of bias within the police department threatens to erode black support for him, already a problem for his campaign, days ahead of the first debates.
The mayor planned to attend a protest Friday evening at the South Bend Police Department. Community activists said the protest would be led by family members of the dead man, Eric Logan, and it was meant to pressure the St. Joseph County prosecutor to bring in an outside prosecutor to examine the shooting.
“This evening is one of those when the city just needs its mayor,” Mr. Buttigieg said.
Oliver Davis, a black member of the South Bend City Council who planned to attend the protest, pointed to more than half a dozen incidents since Mr. Buttigieg took office in 2012 of police misconduct, some resulting in fatalities, that Mr. Davis said had shredded trust in the police.
“This is what people feel: We’re tired,” Mr. Davis said.
He acknowledged that in recent days, Mr. Buttigieg has been more proactive in reaching out to the city after taking criticism for dropping from public sight for 48 hours, and seeming not to engage with Mr. Logan’s family.
On Wednesday, Mr. Buttigieg spoke to Mr. Logan’s mother at a public gathering to protest gun violence.
On Thursday, as the legacy of racism boiled up in a Congressional hearing on reparations, and in controversial statements about working with segregationists by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Buttigieg sent a lengthy email to his list of national supporters, in which he decried the history of racism in policing.
“When someone sees police car lights in his neighborhood and is filled with fear instead of reassurance, that should move all of us to demand a change in how policing is done,” he wrote.
Mr. Logan, 54, was shot fatally by an officer responding to reports of a man breaking into cars downtown. The authorities said Mr. Logan flashed a knife and lunged at the officer, who shot him once in the abdomen. But the officer had not activated his body camera. Mr. Logan’s family questioned why he was taken to the hospital in a police car rather than in an ambulance.
After leaving the campaign trail on Sunday, the day Mr. Logan was shot, Mr. Buttigieg flew from South Bend on Thursday for a fund-raiser and volunteer event in Boston. He was in Miami on Friday morning for the meeting of Latino elected officials. After the protest at home, he planned to head back to South Carolina for the state Democratic Party convention on Saturday.