As a night auditor working at Ashland's Stratford Inn, Angel Carlin's duties include tending to paperwork, checking guests in and out, and making sure "nothing bad is going around," he testified Thursday before a Jackson County Circuit Court jury in the murder trial of Robert Keegan.
But in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2020, the latter duty was tested when Carlin, 33, was the sole witness in a dispute that turned deadly between Keegan, who turned 50 April 22, and 19-year-old Aidan Ellison. Keegan, who is white, allegedly shot Ellison, who is Black, in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn after Ellison reportedly refused to turn down music coming from a car.
"For the most part, I feel like I did everything OK," Carlin said during the third day of Keegan's trial, when he was asked by defense lawyer Alyssa Bartholomew if he had reflected on what else he could have done to try to stop the dispute.
Keegan is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection to his altercation with Ellison.
Carlin testified that before the shooting, he did not know Ellison, but had seen him around the property. Carlin said he knew Keegan as "a long-termer" at the inn, because Keegan was living there with his 11-year-old son after they were displaced by the Sept. 8, 2020, Almeda Fire.
Carlin also noted during his testimony that Keegan had switched rooms prior to the shooting because he complained about loud music coming from hotel staff operating the breakfast room, below where his room had been.
Carlin testified that he had "just a regular shift" until Keegan approached him at the front desk in the lobby and told him there was loud music outside. In surveillance video jurors watched without sound, Keegan can be seen pointing to the front door and waving both arms in a commotion-like manner to Carlin.
"At that time, I hadn't heard anything," Carlin testified, referring to Keegan's allegation of loud music. "My job is to just go, 'Yeah, I'll take a look.' I told him (Keegan) I'd go take care of it."
So, Carlin put up a sign on the front desk indicating he was away and could be reached by phone. Then, he put on his jacket and went out to the parking lot.
"When I when out the carport door, I heard no noise at all," Carlin said.
When he found Ellison, Carlin said, the teenager's demeanor seemed "very chill."
When Carlin asked Ellison whether he was playing loud music, the teenager responded "no," according to Carlin
Ellison then told Carlin someone was yelling at him through a second-story window to "keep it down."
Ellison told Carlin that he shouted at Keegan, 'I'm not making any noise ... shut up!'"
While Ellison was telling his version of events to Carlin in the parking lot, Keegan approached.
"He was definitely agitated," Carlin said during testimony, adding that Keegan and Ellison "got into it" almost immediately.
Carlin agreed with Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull's assertion that the argument between Keegan and Ellison went both ways.
When Keegan allegedly told Ellison he could hear loud music coming from the teenager's car, Ellison responded he was not playing anything and added that he is 19 years old and doesn't even own a car.
"Aidan said the N-word, and then Robert said the N-word back to him," Carlin said, contradicting earlier statements from the prosecution and defense that Keegan had actually told Ellison, "I am not the N-word." Later on, Carlin testified that Keegan responded that he is not the N-word.
After the N-word exchange, Carlin did not hear any other words said between Ellison and Keegan.
Carlin tried to "jump in to try to tell them to stop," but it was no use, he testified. Carlin said he was hit in the middle of the scuffle, so he "backed off."
Keegan and Ellison's argument caused them to inch down the parking lot, Carlin said. That is when he decided to call 911, so he pulled his phone out of his shirt pocket.
"As soon as I take it out, that's when, literally, the gunshot goes off," Carlin said.
Carlin testified he could not see a visible wound to Ellison, but noticed the young man's look of "disbelief" on his face as he leaned on a truck and grabbed his side.
"He ran away from the hotel," Carlin testified, adding he did not see where Ellison came to rest. Earlier in the week, jurors saw police body camera footage showing Ellison on his side lying lifeless in a bushy median of the inn's parking lot.
Carlin went back into the lobby and called 911, which, Lull noted, occurred a little under three minutes after Keegan complained to the hotel employee about music. Keegan can be seen entering the frame of the lobby surveillance video before he sits down in a chair and a swarm of officers arrive.
When Lull asked Carlin whether Keegan ever told Ellison, "Stop, or I will shoot," "please stop" or simply "stop," Carlin testified that he did not. Carlin also told Lull that Keegan never spoke to Carlin again after the incident and did not call 911.
Carlin told jurors he was scared during the argument between the two men and had a hard time believing what he had just witnessed.
Carlin provided testimony mostly in the witness chair, but also pointed to the location of the lobby and the shooting to help jurors understand the exact location of key moments of the shooting.
Carlin did not face tough questioning by Keegan's defense counsel. He revealed during questioning, however, that he has children — like Keegan — and is 5-foot-6, in contrast to the 6-foot Ellison.
Jurors also heard more testimony Thursday from Jackson County Sheriff's Office Detective Steve Bohn, who interviewed Keegan at police headquarters after the shooting. A lead detective in the investigation into Ellison's death also testified before proceedings broke for the day.
Keegan's trial, which began Tuesday, is expected to continue into next week.
Kevin Opsahl is the cops and courts reporter for Rogue Valley Times. He was previously the education reporter for Medford Mail Tribune. Kevin graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington in 2010. He has spent his adult life in the west, but was born and raised in Maryland.
Keegan sounds like a hero.
Also, why don't you capitalize white?
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