An Oregon grand jury has indicted a 27-year-old man who prosecutors said shot and killed a Black man after he spoke to his girlfriend.
CNN reports that Ian Mackenzie Cranston, who is white, was arrested on six charges related to the killing of Barry Washington, 22. The charges are second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.
Per CNN, Cranston is being held in the Deschutes County Jail without bond and made his first appearance in court on Friday. He hasn’t entered a plea.
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Cranston allegedly shot Washington to death in downtown Bend early September 19, according to a September 22 news release by the Deschutes County District Attorney’s Office. Cranston was initially arrested on a single charge of second-degree manslaughter and had been released on bail before the grand jury returned the indictment Thursday.
In a statement issued to CNN Saturday, Kevin Sali, an attorney for Cranston, said, “Indisputable video evidence shows that before Ian Cranston ever drew his weapon, Barry Washington had assaulted him without provocation, resulting in head injuries that required the police to take Mr. Cranston to the hospital where a brain scan and other procedures had to be performed.”
According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said the Sept. 19 incident began after Washington approached and complimented a woman described as Cranston’s girlfriend outside of a nightclub. A physical altercation that involved shoving and punching followed soon after, he said, which eventually stopped and turned into shouting.
Hummel said it was then when Cranston shot Washington, who was unarmed. It is believed the men didn’t know each other before that night.
Hummel said there was “no justification” for Cranston’s use of the weapon.
“The question I have to decide is whether Cranston’s decision to shoot was motivated in part by [Washington’s] race,” he added. “At the end of the day, it comes down to what was his motivation at the instant that he committed the crime.”
OPB also reports that Cranston’s girlfriend released cellphone video of the incident that she recorded, which was shaky and showed only a few Washington and another person shoving each other before he was shot.
Prosecutors say they didn’t pursue a hate crime charge against Cranston because they are still investigating whether the shooting was racially motivated, according to OPB. However, during the news conference announcing Cranston’s arrest on Thursday, Hummel said this in reference to the incident:
“Our country has a disgraceful history of denigrating, prosecuting and lynching Black men for talking to white women. Over the last week, literally hundreds of people called and emailed me to remind me of this history,” Hummel said. “There’s a reckoning with race that needs to happen in Central Oregon, and it needs to happen now.”
Sali, Cranston’s attorney, didn’t appreciate the district attorney’s remarks, per OPB. He accused Hummel of distorting facts to sway public opinion, and issued a statement that said in part that the evidence will ultimately decide the case.
According to CNN, Lawanda Roberson, Washington’s mother, posted a response to the charges against Cranston on Facebook. She described it as “overwhelming” and said she hadn’t even begun to grieve for her son yet.
“The legal case is a lot ... all while trying to lay my son to rest,” she said.
Hummel’s office said Cranston will appear in court for a hearing on Tuesday.