State Watch

Black Oregon teen fatally shot after argument over music

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A Black teenager in Oregon was shot and killed last week following a reported parking lot argument over the volume of music.

Ashland, Ore., police were called to the parking lot of the Stratford Inn before 5 a.m. on Nov. 23, where the teen — identified by friends and family as 19-year-old Aidan Ellison — was “found deceased.”

The police department says that Robert Paul Keegan, 47, shot Ellison once in the chest.

“Yes, there was an argument over music, no, this did not happen because of loud music, it happened because the suspect chose to bring a gun with him and chose to use it,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said in a Facebook post. “100 percent on him, not the poor young man that was murdered.”

Keegan, who is white, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, reckless endangerment and unlawful possession of a weapon. Keegan pleaded not guilty to all of the charges on Friday; he’s being held at the Jackson County Jail on no bail and is expected back in court on Feb. 22 for a pre-trial hearing.

O’Meara told CNN that Keegan was staying at the inn with his 3-year-old son after being displaced by the Almeda wildfire, which burned more than 3,200 acres of land in the state two months ago.

Community members and advocates have said that Keegan’s actions were a byproduct of racism.

“It’s not a coincidence that a white man, according to police, chose to take the life of a young black man for the offense of playing his music. This is at the root of racism. This is how people and cultures are erased through deeply ingrained violence,” Jule Akins, Ashland’s mayor-elect, said Saturday in a post on social media site Next Door.

The police department’s press release on the incident doesn’t say whether racial motives are being investigated, though O’Meara did address the community’s anger in his interview with CNN.

“I understand that there are legitimate tensions surrounding matters of violence against people of color in the U.S., and this situation speaks directly to that,” the police chief said. “I want to do whatever I can with the police department to navigate our marginalized community member relationships and find a way through this.”

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