A dispute over loud music ended with a 47-year-old Oregon man fatally shooting a Black teenager in a hotel parking lot just days before Thanksgiving, police said.
The shooting happened in front of the Stratford Inn in Ashland, about 16 miles north of the California-Oregon border, in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, authorities said.
Aidan Ellison, 19, was staying at the hotel with his friend Sara Jones and her cousin when the young man couldn’t sleep that night.
“I gave Aidan my car keys to listen to music,” Jones, 35, told NBC News on Monday.
“I had fallen back asleep because I had to work in a few hours. Around 4:50 a.m. I get a knock at the door from police asking, ‘Is there a young black male that stayed with me?’ I said, ‘Yes, that would be Aidan.’ They asked me if I knew where he was. I said, ‘Yes, I’ll take you to him, he’s in my car.’ They said he wasn’t in trouble. He was possibly shot and it was a matter of life or death and they needed to find him.”
When she and the police got downstairs, Jones said she saw Ellison’s body near a tree and some shrubs as paramedics attended to him. Police said in a statement that though paramedics attempted to render aid on the scene, Ellison was “beyond help” and died on scene.
“From what I was told was there was an argument over loud music, the front desk clerk tried to break up the argument but when he went back inside is when Aidan was shot,” said Jones, who lives at the hotel and knew Ellison from their work at a local fast food restaurant.
While the deadly dispute may have started over loud music, Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara said in a statement that this tragedy is “100%” the fault of suspect Robert Paul Keegan.
“The only thing that caused this murder was suspect’s actions,” O’Meara said. “It is completely immaterial what led up to it.”
The chief added: “Yes, there was an argument over music, no, this did not happen because of loud music, it happened because the suspect chose to bring a gun with him and chose to use it.”
Keegan allegedly pulled a gun from inside his coat “and fired a single shot, striking the victim in the chest,” according to a police statement.
Jim Tumpane, owner of the Stratford Inn, said he and his staff are “heartbroken, shocked, and angered by the senseless murder” Ellison.
“Our hearts grieve for his family and friends. We appreciate the vigils that have been coordinated,” Tumpane said in a statement. “We also welcome and greatly encourage the posting of ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs on our property. We are thankful for the community’s support towards all of those affected, including Aidan’s loved ones, our staff, and our residents here at the Stratford Inn.”
Keegan, who lives in nearby Talent, was arrested at the scene and was still in Jackson County Jail on Monday, booked on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, reckless endangering and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Keegan had not hired an attorney by Monday, according to the Jackson County Public Defender’s office.
Ellison’s friend Sunmoon Oh said the victim battled homelessness but was always generous with what little he had.
“I could tell you all the stereotypical stuff. He was special, he was kind, he was a great guy, but he was so much more than that,” Oh told NBC affiliate KOBI. “He had nothing, but yet even if he had something he would give it to you no questions asked.”