The killing of a young Black man by a white man who complained that he was playing loud music has roiled Ashland, Or., forcing the liberal college town famous for its Shakespeare festival to take a hard look at race relations, reports the Associated Press. The death of Aidan Ellison, 19, added another name to the list of Black men and women whose killings have prompted a nationwide reckoning with racism and fueled a surge in a Black Lives Matter movement. Ellison’s family said in a statement released by his mother, Andrea Wofford, “Enough is enough. How many Black men have to die before this community takes hate crimes seriously?” On Nov. 23, Robert Keegan fired a single shot into Ellison’s chest after complaining about the music late at night in a motel parking lot. He is being held without bail.
Keegan, 47, is from the nearby 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. Keegan claimed Ellison punched him in the face and that he fired in self-defense. 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 evidence that would support bias crime charges against Keegan. Ashland Mayor-elect Julie Akins believes racism was behind the shooting, saying, “It is not a coincidence that a white man … 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 local police to assess whether federal laws may have been violated.