Hundreds of people attended vigils to honor Barry Washington, Jr. Sept. 22 and 23 in Bend, just days after police say he was shot and killed by Ian Cranston outside of The Capitol, a Bend nightclub, Sept. 19. Washington’s family and friends also organized a vigil at Benicia Park in Benicia, California, close to where Washington grew up. The shooting ignited a conversation about enduring racism in Central Oregon and the chasm of experience between white residents and people of color. Cops arrested Cranston on second-degree manslaughter charges. He posted bail and was released shortly after the shooting.
Wednesday’s vigil invited people to share their experiences in Central Oregon, with speakers recounting racism they’ve encountered in the community. A Black woman shared that she was recently run off the road in Bend. A teenage girl said she was called the ‘N-word’ at the age of five. And a local activist remembered Deshaun Adderley, who committed suicide in 2015 after being bullied at Summit High School. The Source Weekly, along with KPOV, was among the only local media outlets to cover Adderley’s death.
“Deshaun Adderley committed suicide over the bullying he was receiving in school. When he asked his school for help, he received none. When he asked his councilors for help, he received none. This is the life for Black people in Bend, Oregon,” Riccardo Waites, founder and CEO of Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, told Wednesday’s vigil attendees.
Initial reporting suggested that Cranston shot Washington after Washington approached his fiancé, Allie Butler, first at the bar and later outside. Deschutes District Attorney John Hummel said Washington didn’t act inappropriately while interacting with Butler, but Cranston reacted aggressively, and a fight broke out. Hummel said Cranston shot Washington as he was arguing with one of Cranston’s friends.
Washington’s family, however, claims that the same men harassed Washington shortly after he moved to Bend. They say the shooting could be premeditated—which could raise charges from manslaughter to murder—and that Cranston used slurs that could turn the shooting into a hate crime.
“Basically, he told him that they can do to him whatever they wanted to do and kept calling him the 'N' word,” Valencia Roberson, Washington’s aunt, told NBC Bay Area.
Hummel previously said that he’s not ruled out the possibility that this is a hate crime.
“The question I have to decide is whether Cranston’s decision to shoot was motivated in part by [Washington’s] race,” Hummel told OPB. “At the end of the day, it comes down to what was his motivation at the instant that he committed the crime.”
Thursday’s vigil focused on Washington’s life, with friends and roommates sharing what he was like. Friends said he was a “nerd” who loved Pokémon, videogames and chess. He idolized Malcolm X. He wasn’t confrontational but also wasn’t docile when confronted, they said.
“He's a loving person, he only cares about having fun when he steps out; that's his only goal when he steps out of the house,” said Max Petersen, Washington’s friend and roommate, during Thursday’s vigil. “I told him it would be a safe environment up here. But that was obviously a lie that I told him. I had been given a different impression from the community up here. I had better faith up here.”
Petersen had known Washington since he was 11 years old and invited him to come live with him in Bend. Petersen said he was shocked after Washington was first harassed shortly after moving to Bend.
“I told him for a week, ‘I'm sorry, I told you it'd be good up here and I'm sorry I can't believe this shit happened to you; I've been up here for four and a half years, and nobody popped off like that,” Petersen told the Source.
Petersen said he doesn’t know if the people that harassed Washington were there the night he was killed, but like the family, he believes the killing was racially motivated and hopes the charges can be raised to murder.
“We absolutely expect a murder charge,” Petersen said. “I think he was targeted. I think what 99% of the people walking downtown Bend look like... if they would have got into a fight, trying to push up on some dude’s female because they thought she was cute or whatever, and they tried to compliment her, I promise you they wouldn't have died that night.”
Washington’s family set up a GoFundMe campaign to pay for legal fees in the case. As of Monday it had raised $33,376 of a $40,000 goal.