An Oregon man accused of killing a black teen at a hotel during a dispute over loud music has pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said.
Robert Paul Keegan, 47, of Talent, entered the plea Friday to charges including second-degree murder in the fatal Nov. 23 shooting of 19-year-old Aidan Ellison, according to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office.
Keegan — who was staying at the Stratford Inn hotel in Ashland with his 3-year-old son after being displaced from their home in September during one of the state’s wildfires — became enraged at Ellison playing loud music in the parking lot at about 4 a.m., Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara previously said.
O’Meara clarified his comments about Keegan’s alleged motive on Thursday, saying the “only thing” that caused Ellison’s death was the suspect’s actions.
“It is completely immaterial what led up to it,” O’Meara said in a statement. “Yes, there was an argument over music, no, this 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 percent on him, not the poor young man that was murdered.”
O’Meara said on Facebook that the pair had argued over Ellison’s blaring music prior to the deadly shooting, but the post has since been deleted, The Oregonian reported.
An Oregon advocacy group, meanwhile, said the teen’s murder is another example of “Oregon’s racist history with and current practice” of white supremacy.
“To be clear, Aidan was murdered because he was a young black person who made a white man uncomfortable and refused to submit to that man’s personally-perceived authority — not because he was listening to music too loudly,” the Southern Oregon Black Leaders, Activists and Community Coalition (SOBLACC) said in a statement.
The teen’s slaying is the only homicide in Ashland this year, SOBLACC officials said.
Keegan, who also pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm and recklessly endangering another person, was ordered held without bail ahead of his next court appearance on Feb. 22, prosecutors said.
Keegan’s attorney did not return a request for comment, CNN reported Monday.
Ellison, who police have said was also a guest at the hotel at the time, was homeless, a friend he’d stayed with sporadically told KMVU last week.
“He had nothing, but yet even if he had something, he would give it to you, no questions asked,” pal Sunmoon Oh told the station.