MEDFORD, Ore. – Over 50 community members came together Wednesday in remembrance of 19-year old Ashland man Aidan Ellison, by holding a vigil in front of the Jackson County Courthouse and demanding justice.
They say Ellison was murdered because he is black. Police said at this point in the investigation, it’s unknown whether race played a role in the shooting.
Ellison, an Ashland High School graduate, was shot and killed last week by 47-year old Robert Paul Keegan at the parking lot of the Stratford Inn. Keegan has pleaded not guilty and claims he shot Ellison in self-defense. Ashland Police say there’s no evidence to support that, as neither Keegan’s face or Ellison’s hands showed any markings indicating that.
“For people who say this kind of thing doesn’t happen here, it does, it happened. So we need to get over that. And actually, try to make [a] change so it doesn’t keep happening,” said Kayla Wade, one of the organizers for the event.
Wade is part of the Southern Oregon Coalition for Racial Equity, also known as SOEquity. It, along with other groups like Student Activist Coalition, Rogue Action Center, and Rogue Climate organized the event. Wade tells NBC5 News we need to talk about the tense race relations that exist in the Rogue Valley.
“No one here in the black community is surprised by what happened. We’re devastated and we’re hurt. But no one was surprised,” said Wade.
Ashland Police are still investigating the fatal shooting. The agency charged Keegan with murder, which is the first in Ashland this year.
Gina DuQuenne, an Ashland City Councilor-Elect, joined the group at the vigil Wednesday. Next year she’ll become the first-ever person of color on the Ashland City Council.
She told NBC5 News it’s time the community takes action because there is no place for division here.
“If we sugar-coat this, what’s happened, the murder of Aidan Ellison, then there is no accountability. I believe that it has to be called out for what it truly is,” said DuQuenne.
SOEquity said it plans to meet with local law enforcement groups, where they’ll continue a dialogue on policing people of color.
Keegan is in Jackson County Jail awaiting trial on multiple charges. He has been denied bail.