A Redmond man accused in a fatal September shooting pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in a Deschutes County courtroom Tuesday. The case stems from the public killing of an unarmed Black man, sparking protests against racism in Central Oregon.
Barry K. Washington Jr., 22, was killed by a single gunshot in downtown Bend just after midnight on Sept 19. Police who responded to the scene arrested 27-year-old Ian M. Cranston, who is white. Prosecutors said the men did not appear to know each other before brawling on the sidewalk outside The Capitol nightclub.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel has said the conflict began after Washington approached Cranston’s girlfriend, Allison A. Butler. In a September press conference, Hummel linked the shooting to “a disgraceful history of denigrating, prosecuting and lynching Black men for talking to white women.”
Cranston pleaded not guilty to all charges, including second-degree murder, first and second-degree manslaughter, fourth-degree assault and two counts of unlawful use of a deadly weapon. He appeared by video before Circuit Court Judge Beth Bagley.
Cranston’s attorney Kevin Sali has said that “before Ian Cranston ever drew his weapon, Barry Washington had assaulted him without provocation, resulting in head injuries…[and] that unprovoked assault was still actively in progress when the single shot was fired,” according to an Oct. 1 email statement from Sali.
In Oregon, laws about self-defense take a graduated approach, Lewis and Clark law school professor Tung Yin said.
“The basic root of it is you can use force proportional to the threat,” Yin said. “It can’t be excessive.”
“If somebody shoves you and they make a fist and you actually are afraid that they are going to punch you, you are allowed to defend yourself from the punch. But if it’s just a punch, it would be disproportionate to pull out a gun and shoot the person,” he added.
Ultimately, Yin said, it’s up to a jury to decide what degree of force is proportional, or if a decision to kill was reasonable.
At the time of his death, Washington had recently moved to Bend from Benicia, California. After the hearing, his mother Lawanda Roberson put out a statement through an attorney.
“Our family is devastated by Barry’s murder. As his mother, I can truly say a piece of me was taken,” Roberson wrote.
During Tuesday’s hearing, about 50 demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse. Josie Stanfield led the group in chanting Washington’s name as they marched several blocks to the scene of the shooting, which has become a memorial.
“A lot of us have been bringing up the question, ‘Would Ian Cranston have shot and murdered a white person?’ And he wouldn’t have. I think that’s very obvious to anyone who knows how racism in Central Oregon works,” said Stanfield, a Black woman who leads the Central Oregon Diversity Project.
Stanfield’s social media posts about the shooting have fueled national attention from Black Lives Matter movement supporters.
“It’s important for us to bring race into this. Because Black people are not as safe as white people in America, of course, but especially in our community because we are such a small percent of the population,” she said.
At the time of the shooting, Cranston worked at Nosler, Inc., an ammunition manufacturer in Bend. His since-deleted social media posts show enthusiasm for guns. One post, apparently created when Cranston was about 17, reads: “AR-15, here I come!!” Cranston’s employment with Nosler was terminated for “breaking the company’s code of conduct,” according to an Oct. 5 email from company spokesperson Zach Waterman.
Cranston is currently in the Deschutes County jail without the option to post bail. His attorney has not requested a hearing to set bail, court records show.
Bend police officers who responded on Sept. 19 have faced criticism from Washington’s family for initially jailing Cranston on a single charge of second-degree manslaughter. He posted bail and was released the same day. Some 11 days passed before he was re-arrested for murder and other charges.
In the immediate aftermath, Bend police Chief Mike Krantz defended his officers’ choices.
Records show a middle school teacher wrote to city officials seeking an explanation on the initial charging decision.
“With all due respect, as a local educator in Bend, how can you expect me to answer my students’ questions, particularly my BIPOC students when they ask how a young black man can be murdered in public in our town and the man who committed the crime could be released on bond and only charged with manslaughter?”
Krantz replied to the teacher, stating that the justice system does not operate on “emotion or feelings of how something should work.”
“It does not operate on what social media says as that is not evidence,” Krantz wrote. “This is an opportunity to teach not only justice but how justice comes about.”
A hearing to set Cranston’s trial date is scheduled for Friday.