APD: Unknown if race is a factor in Aidan Ellison homicide, hate crime charge possible

ASHLAND, Ore. – Ashland Police continue to investigate the city’s only homicide of the year, including whether race played a role in the fatal shooting. 19-year-old Aidan Ellison was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn last Monday morning. The suspect, Robert Paul Keegan, was arrested at the scene and charged with both murder and illegal possession of a firearm.

While some have suggested race played a role in the 19-year old black man’s death, police are still investigating and said hate crime charges are possible.

Ashland advocates claim race was a factor in 19-year old Aidan Ellison’s death last week. They said 47-year old Robert Keegan should be charged with a hate crime.  Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said while APD doesn’t have sufficient evidence to prove this was a hate crime they aren’t ruling it out.

This comes after 19-year old Ashland High School Graduate Aidan Ellison was shot in the chest at the Stratford Inn in Ashland on Monday, November 23rd. Police told NBC5 the confrontation started when 47-year old Robert Paul Keegan went out of the hotel and argued with Ellison about the volume of his music. Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said Keegan then pulled out a gun, which the chief said Keegan was carrying illegally and shot Ellison.

“Any suggestion of self-defense was quickly swept away. There’s no way this should have happened,” said O’Meara.

Police have been investigating the case for a week now leaving many wondering, including the chief, why it escalated to such violence.

“We can’t see into the suspect’s head,” said O’Meara

It’s also left many to speculate that race may have played a role in the shooting. Chief O’Meara said that’s unknown.  But the question still lies, would Ellison have been shot if he wasn’t black?

“That’s a very legitimate and important thing for us to look at. Right now, we can’t substantiate that race was a factor. If that changes at some point then some different charges can be considered. So yes, could it have been a factor, of course. But without having the benefit of knowing what Keegan is thinking we can’t substantiate it,” said O’Meara.

Ellison’s death is the first homicide in Ashland in 2020, where roughly 1.4% of the population is black.

Mom’s Demand Action, a gun-control advocacy group, condemned the shooting. It also released a statistic, showing that in Oregon, black people are 5 times more likely to die by gun homicide than white people.

The Southern Oregon Black Leaders, Activists, and Community Coalition released a statement saying in part…

SOBLACC is outraged that racism continues to endanger black bodies and black lives. The murder of Aidan Ellison is another example of Southern Oregon’s racist history with and current practice of white supremacy.

Chief O’Meara said while Keegan isn’t being charged with a hate crime right now, it’s not something that can be ruled out, so early in the investigation.

“He has not been charged with ethnic intimidation, but if we come across information that substantiates that claim that we will work with the da’s office to bring that appropriate charge,” said O’Meara.

Southern Oregon Activists are holding a rally in front of the Jackson County Courthouse for Aidan Ellison, Wednesday, December 2, 2020, at 3:45 p-m.

Click HERE for SOBLACC’s full statement.

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