A black teenager was shot and killed last week in Oregon by an older man who confronted him in a hotel parking lot for playing loud music, authorities said.
The shooting took place in the early morning of Nov. 23 at the Stratford Inn in Ashland, Oregon, about 180 miles south of Eugene, police said.
Inn guest Robert Paul Keegan, 47, left his room because he thought someone was playing music too loud in the outdoor parking lot, police said. After an argument, Mr. Keegan, who is white, “took a gun out of his coat and fired a single shot” in the victim’s chest, “police said in a statement.
“Ashland Fire and Rescue came to the scene to try to help, but the man was beyond help,” police said.
Chief Tighe O’Meara of the Ashland Police Department identified the victim as 19-year-old Aiden Ellison, but a friend and a woman who answered the phone at Ashland High School, where Mr Ellison was a student, said his first name was Aidan, with two A’s.
Chief O’Meara said the ministry was investigating whether the shooting “was racially motivated”, adding that a racial motive had not been “legally justified”.
Three days after the murder, Chief O’Meara released a statement seeking to clarify comments attributed to him in some reports of the shooting.
“It was reported in some local media sources that I said this murder was ‘because of’ something,” he said. “The only thing that caused this murder were the actions of the suspect, 100%.
“It didn’t happen because of the loud music,” he added. “It happened because the suspect chose to bring a gun with him and chose to use it, 100% on him, not on the poor young man who was murdered.
He also told CNN that the shooting was “absolutely senseless.”
“This was not to happen,” he said. “People get violent with each other for such stupid reasons.”
Mr Keegan was arrested at the scene and charged with second degree murder, first degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a weapon and recklessly endangering another person, court records show. (Prosecutors said the endangerment charge was filed because a hotel employee was nearby at the time of the shooting.)
Mr. Keegan was being held without bond in the Jackson County Jail, according to jail records.
Benjamin Lull, a Jackson County assistant district attorney, said the murder was still under investigation and declined to discuss it in detail.
In a statement, he said his office had “no information (at this point) on the songs (if any) played by Mr. Ellison”, and that he was “not yet able to comment the role that race might (or not) have played in homicide at this point.
Mr. Lull said Mr. Keegan did not have a lawyer assigned to his case. Telephone and email messages sent to Mr. Keegan’s relatives were not returned.
Mr Keegan had been staying at the Stratford Inn since being displaced by the Almeda fire in September, Chief O’Meara said.
TzadhiI Masji Burt, 19, said he was a close friend of Mr Ellison’s and they had both been homeless in Ashland. On occasion, they would stay together whenever one of them found suitable accommodation, Mr Burt said.
Mr. Ellison, he said, “was just the most selfless person.”
Mr Ellison’s murder was reminiscent of a similar shooting in Florida exactly eight years earlier. On November 23, 2012, 17-year-old Jordan Davis was shot and killed while sitting in a friend’s SUV in a parking lot outside a convenience store in Jacksonville. Prosecutors said a white man, Michael Dunn, 46, who was parked next to them, asked them to turn down their music and they refused.
Mr. Dunn pulled a 9-millimeter pistol from his glove box and shot it 10 times. Mr. Davis was hit three times and died in the car. The other passengers were not hit.
At his trial, Mr Dunn said he only fired after Mr Davis pointed a shotgun at him. However, no hunting rifle has ever been found and witnesses say they have never seen one. In 2014, a jury dismissed Mr Dunn’s self-defense request and found him guilty of first degree murder.
Four years later, Mr. Davis’ mother, Lucy McBath, was elected to Congress, representing a district just north of Atlanta.