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Fatal shooting of Black teen over loud music roils Ashland


SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The killing of a young Black man last month by a white man who complained that he was playing loud music has roiled Ashland.

The slaying has forced the liberal college town famous for its Shakespeare festival to take a hard look at race relations.

The Nov. 23 death of 19-year-old Aidan Ellison added another name to the list of Black men and women whose killings have sparked a nationwide reckoning with racism.

Robert Keegan fired a single shot into Ellison’s chest in a motel parking lot.

He is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to second-degree murder, manslaughter and other charges.

“What can be said about this teenager who was full of spirit? He was just getting started on his lifelong journey when he was taken from us,” Ellison’s mother, Andrea Wofford, said in a statement. “Enough is enough. How many Black men have to die before this community takes hate crimes seriously?”

Keegan, 47, is from the nearby small town of Talent, which was heavily damaged in a wildfire in September. He and Ellison were both staying at the motel but apparently did not know each other before that night.

Keegan claimed Ellison punched him in the face and that he fired in self-defense, according to court records. But a police officer reported that Keegan had no visible injuries to his face and that an autopsy showed no injuries to Ellison’s hands that would have indicated he had hit Keegan.

Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said investigators have not found any evidence that would support bias crime charges against Keegan.

But Ashland Mayor-elect Julie Akins said she believes racism was behind the shooting.

“I can speak as a member of the white-bodied community in saying it is past time we take stock of systemic racism, which continues to cause the death of our brothers and sisters of color,” Akins said in a statement. “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.”

The FBI is working with the Ashland Police Department to assess whether federal laws may have been violated, the police department announced Thursday.

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Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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The Associated Press


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