ASHLAND, Ore. — A Talent man has been charged with murder after police say he shot and killed a Black teenager in the parking lot of an Ashland hotel on Monday. The shooting has drawn condemnation from Southern Oregon’s Black community, which raised concerns about the area’s culture and history of white supremacy.
The teen, whose name has not been publicly confirmed by police, has been widely identified on social media and in news reports as Aiden Ellison, 19.
Another Ashland resident Robert Keegan, 47, has been charged with his murder. Keegan is facing four criminal counts, including second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, reckless endangering and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Little information was immediately available about Ellison himself. Facebook posts from some Ashland Black Lives Matter groups said there would be a vigil for the teen on Thursday, at the site where he was killed.
Precious Edmonds, a spokesperson for the Southern Oregon Black Leaders, Activists and Community Coalition (SOBLACC), said the organization has not been in touch with Ellison’s family, but the organization has planned a meeting for Dec. 7, inviting Black people living in Southern Oregon to come together and discuss priorities for their community.
She said the community at large seems to be mourning Ellison’s death, but said part of the issue is that people shouldn’t have to know him personally to respect who he was.
The probable cause affidavit in the case is sealed. A press release from Ashland Police Department says both Ellison and Keegan were staying at the Stratford Inn in Ashland, and that the two did not know each other. Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said in a statement on Facebook that the two got into an argument over Ellison playing loud music in the parking lot. Keegan then took a gun out of his coat and fired a single shot into Ellison’s chest, police reports say. Ellison died at the scene.
According to KTVL, a Medford-based news station, the homicide is the first in Ashland this year.
Edmonds said the killing itself, as well as the way it was framed by police and local media, is an example of the area’s culture of white supremacy.
“The incident where Aiden was shot after an argument listening to his music was really about him not submitting to that man’s perceived authority,” she said.
She added that the organization was frustrated with many people, including police and local news organizations, for their attempts to absolve Keegan while vilifying Ellison.
“He was listening to his music too loudly — that’s irrelevant,” Edmonds said. “It doesn’t change a thing, how good the man who shot him was. All of those things are not relevant to what occurred. But that’s the narrative, that’s the frame of white supremacy.”
Some articles noted that Keegan was a survivor of the Almeda fire, and a GoFundMe page raising money for their losses notes that Keegan and his young son were living at the hotel while they tried to recover from the fire that destroyed thousands of structures in the Ashland area.
O’Meara released a statement on Facebook on Thursday, addressing concerns that he said some community members had about his comments on the murder.
“It has been reported in some local media sources that I said this murder was ‘because of’ something,” O’Meara said. “The only thing that caused this murder was the suspect’s actions, 100%. It is completely immaterial what led up to it.”
Edmonds said a local organization had held a forum in August, in which police officers from around the Rogue Valley discussed racism.
“At that point, Chief Tighe, along with others in the valley, said they don’t see racism in their departments,” she said. In October, Edmonds said her organization held a police forum to discuss the matter further, and allow the officers to hear from Black residents.
“We’re challenging the idea that racism could be everywhere except their police department,” she said. “It’s not just about a racist person, but about structure, policy and things that allow the marginalization and unfair criminalization of Black people.”
Edmonds said her organization also challenges comments from those who say Keegan should have called the police instead of acting on his own.
“We’ve just had conversations about how dangerous that is — calling the police on a Black person for basic things like playing music too loud,” Edmonds said. “It’s not about white people’s comfort. That’s not our purpose and it’s not our responsibility.”
Keegan is scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.