Barry Washington Jr. Shot and Killed in Oregon Because the White Shooter Didn’t Like a Black Man Talking to His Girlfriend

More than 60 years after the tragic lynching of Emmett Till in Mississippi — a 14-year-old Black teen who was abducted, tortured, and shot in 1955 by two white men, purely for the “crime” of speaking to a white woman — it appears our country still can’t seem to progress past some of its most troubling racist roots.

CNN’s Andy Rose and Dakin Andone reported that a 27-year-old white man from Oregon named Ian Mackenzie Cranston was indicted last week by a grand jury for shooting and killing Barry Washington Jr., a 22-year-old Black man. Cranston allegedly shot Washington after he had spoken to and paid a compliment to Cranston’s white girlfriend.

According to Rose and Andone, Cranston was charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.

The alleged killing occurred early on the morning of Sept. 19 in downtown Bend, Oregon.

According to District Attorney John Hummel, “prior to the shooting, Washington had complimented Cranston’s girlfriend, but that there was ‘no allegation that anything Mr. Washington did was inappropriate.’”

“He complimented her in a respectful manner,” Hummel told local news affiliate KTVZ. “She was fine back. She said, ‘No, thank you. I’m flattered, but I’m in a relationship.’”

Still, Cranston was said to be “not happy” about what had occurred. 

“He said some words to Mr. Washington. Mr. Washington said some words back,” Hummel said. “There was some pushing, some jostling, some punches thrown, but then it calmed down. It was not going to get out of hand. Then Mr. Cranston pulled a gun out of his waistband and shot and killed Mr. Washington.”

Even though Cranston is white and Washington was Black, Hummel has so far not sought a hate crime charge for the murder, telling reporters he didn’t have enough evidence currently but adding that the case remains under investigation.

“If we obtain sufficient evidence to prove that this shooting was at least partially motivated by race, we will go back to that grand jury and ask them to add the charge,” he said. 

“Our country has a disgraceful history of denigrating, prosecuting, and lynching Black men for talking to white women,” Hummel said. “Over the last week, literally hundreds of people called and emailed me to remind me of this history.”

Rose and Andone reported that “after the announcement of the charges, Washington’s mother, Lawanda Roberson, posted on Facebook that, ‘This is really overwhelming,’ and that she hadn’t even begun to grieve.”

“The legal case is a lot … all while trying to lay my son to rest,” she wrote.

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