The controversy over loud music ended with a 47-year-old Oregon man shot dead a black teenager in the hotel parking lot a few days before Thanksgiving, police said.
The shooting took place about 16 miles north of the California-Oregon border in Ashland, in front of the Stratford Inn, on the early morning of November 23rd.
Aidan Ellison, 19, was at the hotel with her friend and cousin, Sara Jones, when the young man could not sleep that night.
“I handed Aidan the keys to my car to listen to music,” Jones, 35, told NBC News on Monday.
“I fell back asleep because I had to work in a few hours. Around 4:50 am I knocked on the door from the cops and asked, Is there a young black man left with me?” I said, “Yes, it would be Aidan.” They asked if I knew where he was. I said, “Yeah, I’ll take you to him, he’s in my car.” They said there was nothing wrong. They may have been shot, it was a matter of life or death and they had to find it. “
When he and police reached the ground floor, Jones said he saw Ellison’s body near a tree and was being cared for by some shrubs as paramedics. Police said the rescuers tried to provide relief at the scene, Ellison was “beyond help” and died at the scene.
“What was said to have been a dispute over the loud music was the receptionist tried to break up the dispute, but when he went back when Aidan was shot,” said Jones, who lives in the hotel and knew Ellison of their work at a local fast food restaurant.
While the deadly debate may have begun 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 reason for the murder was the act of the suspect,” O’Meara said. “It’s completely irrelevant what led to it.”
The boss added, “Yes, there was a debate about the music, no, it wasn’t because of loud music, it was because the suspect decided to bring a gun and decided to use it.”
Police said Keegan allegedly pulled a gun from inside his jacket “and fired a single shot, hitting the victim in the chest.”
Jim Tumpane, owner of the Stratford Inn, said Ellison was “heartbreaking, shocked and angry at the senseless murder” with his staff.
“Our hearts are sad for his family and friends. We appreciate coordinated vigilance,” Tumpane said in a statement. “We welcome and strongly encourage the display of ‘Black Lifestyle’ signs on our property. We are grateful for the community’s support for stakeholders, including Aidan’s loved ones, staff and residents of the Stratford Inn.”
Keegan, who lives in nearby Talent, was arrested at the scene and was still in Jackson County Jail on Monday on suspicion of second-degree murder, first-degree homicide, reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a firearm.
Keegan did not hire a lawyer until Monday, according to the Jackson County State Defense Office.
Ellison’s friend Sunmoon Oh said the victim struggled with homelessness, but was always generous to the few he had.
– I could tell you all the stereotypes. He was special, kind, great guy, but he was so much more than that. ”Oh told NBC’s subsidiary, KOBI. “She had nothing, but even if she had something, she didn’t ask.”