Aidan Ellison, a 19-year-old Oregon hotel guest, was shot and killed on Nov. 23, just three days before Thanksgiving. The reason was that a white man deemed Ellison’s music to be too loud. On that exact date eight years earlier, Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia lost her son, Jordan Davis, in a seemingly identical scenario. Shannon Watts, founder of the grassroots effort Moms Demand Action, called Ellison’s death “a tragic echo” of Davis’ murder.
“Jordan was in a car at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida, when a white man fatally shot him because of the loud music in his car,” Watts said. In October of 2014, Davis’ killer, Michael Dunn, was sentenced to life without parole for the teen’s death. Now activists are calling for justice in Ellison’s case.
“Every year, I write a letter to my son. Read below – and remember there are still thousands of families in this country being torn apart every single day from gun violence,” McBath tweeted on Nov. 23.
”To Jordan: I miss you. It’s been eight years since I got to hug and kiss you. I had no way to know that the last time I hugged you would be the last time I embraced you in this life.
You didn’t deserve to die that way, but our laws failed you, failed us and countless families like ours. I know the man who killed you was not raised the way I raised you.But I decided not to be silent — to challenge the laws that failed us.
I know you’re looking down on me, & I pray I’m making you proud – taking on the work that I know you were meant to do, Jordan. Can you believe I’m about to start my second term in Congress? This wasn’t in the cards or on any life plan that we had.
I know that you were not taken from us in vain eight years ago today. It cannot be that way.Not a day goes by that I don’t think about you, but I take comfort knowing that one day I’ll get to hug you again and hear your voice and your laugh when I join you.
But until God decides that day has come, my promise to you is that I will continue to fight for you and your legacy. To make this world a safer place for families like ours.Thank you for watching over me as my guardian, Jordan. I love you so much.
Forever, your mom, Lucy”
In Ellison’s death, Robert Keegan, 47, was detained on the scene and taken into custody, Ashland police said in a news release. He now faces charges of murder in the 2nd degree, manslaughter in the first degree, reckless endangerment, and unlawful possession of a weapon. “The investigation indicates that Keegan and the victim, who did not know each other, were engaged in an argument in the parking lot when Keegan pulled a gun from his coat and fired a single shot, striking the victim in the chest,” police said.
Police responded to the scene in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn on Siskiyou Boulevard, where Keegan was also a guest, at about 4:20 AM after a hotel clerk near the shooting called 911. “The suspect and the victim were both guests at the Stratford Inn,” police said in the news release.
Although police said they found the victim with a gunshot wound to the chest on arrival, it was Ashland Fire and Rescue, not police officers, who attempted “to render aid” and learned the victim was “beyond help,” officials said in the news release.
”Keegan not only obviously murdered the victim, he also recklessly endangered the hotel clerk by discharging the gun near the hotel clerk,” Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara told NBC-affiliate KOBI. O’Meara called the incident “utterly senseless” in the interview with KOBI but ultimately said, “unfortunately, there was nothing to be done.” O’Meara added that the shooting “didn’t need to happen, people getting violent with each other for such stupid reasons.”
“I would encourage people to let us handle disputes and not go out and get into arguments with people unnecessarily,” the police chief told KOBI.
O’Meara faced criticism for a since-deleted statement he made on Facebook and his initial characterization of the shooting as the result of the victim playing loud music. “I need to offer a clarification in reference to the horrendous murder that occurred on Monday morning,” O’Meara said in a new statement posted to the Ashland police Facebook page Thursday. “It has been reported in some local media sources that I said this murder was ‘because of’ something. The only thing that caused this murder was suspect’s actions, 100% . It is completely immaterial what led up to it. I cannot control how the local media sources represent the words I give them.
“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, 100% on him, not the poor young man that was murdered. I would like to thank the community members who reached out to me to express their concern over how the situation was reported. Tighe.”
Precious Edmonds, a spokesperson for the Southern Oregon Black Leaders, Activists and Community Coalition told The Oregonian a culture of white supremacy persists in the area of southern Oregon Ellison was killed in. “The incident where Aidan was shot after an argument listening to his music was really about him not submitting to that man’s perceived authority,” Edmonds said.
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump tweeted Sunday that his questions in the case extend to more than just the shooter, who Crump called a “white supremacist.” The attorney posed these questions: “1. Why why didn’t Ashland Police render aid on arrival? 2. Why did the Chief of police condemn both for ‘getting into arguments that unnecessarily resolve in violence.’ 3. Why hasn’t Keegan been charged with a hate crime?”
Crump also made an important legal distinction between Ellison’s death and that of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Black teen shot and killed Feb. 26, 2012 on a trip from a convenience store to get candy and tea in Sanford, Florida.
In the case, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was accused of racially profiling the teen, who wore a hooded sweatshirt when 29-year-old Zimmerman shot Martin. At one point, Zimmerman considered using the “stand your ground” law in his defense. The law gives homeowners in fear of their life or in protection of their property the right to use deadly force. Zimmerman ultimately was found not guilty of second-degree murder and acquitted of manslaughter, according to The New York Times.
Crump tweeted: “For those comparing Aidan Ellison’s murder to Trayvon Martin: Oregon isn’t a ‘Stand Your Ground’ state, but the combo of Oregon’s use of force laws and a 2007 Oregon Supreme Court ruling imply that state law doesn’t require a duty to retreat.”
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