A Central Oregon man accused of murder after a fatal shooting in downtown Bend last year will await trial in jail, a Deschutes County Circuit Court judge decided on Monday.
At a virtual hearing, Circuit Court Judge Beth Bagley reviewed evidence from the Sept. 19 shooting, including video footage, police reports, medical records and witness accounts.
Attorneys for Ian MacKenzie Cranston don’t dispute that he fired on Barry Washington Jr., ultimately killing the 22-year-old Black man. Washington was unarmed at the time.
Cranston, who is white, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and two counts of unlawful use of a deadly weapon.
Defense attorneys argue the 27-year-old acted in self-defense after Washington punched him in the face twice, and assaulted Cranston’s friends. But prosecutors said the evidence points to vengeance.
The state sought on Monday to continue holding Cranston without bail and to do so needed to show evidence supporting a strong likelihood of conviction. While the judge’s ruling on does not decide guilt, it does mean Cranston cannot pay bail to be released before the trial.
Surveillance cameras from the night of the killing show that after Washington landed punches, Cranston waited 26 seconds to shoot him in the torso.
“Cranston’s conscious objective after getting hit was to produce his loaded handgun and then wait for the opportunity to kill Washington at close range,” Deputy District Attorney J. Michael Swart argued in court records.
Defense attorney Kevin Sali stated in a brief that “26 seconds is hardly a lengthy period,” and “the video evidence makes clear that throughout the entirety of this period Washington continued to behave aggressively and gave no indication whatsoever of an inclination to terminate his assault.”
Bagley sided with the prosecution on Monday.
“The evidence clearly and convincingly establishes that the defendant Mr. Cranston shot Mr. Washington at close range with a firearm, which is a lethal and deadly weapon, and when he did so, he had the conscious objective to cause Mr. Washington’s death,” Bagley ruled.
Washington, who was originally from California, had been living in Bend for just a month and a half when he was killed. His mother, Lawanda Roberson, spoke in court to oppose Cranston’s release. She called her son by his nickname, B.J.
“I strongly believe in my heart that B.J. would not be dead if he were not Black,” Roberson said. “Race set aside, people in this community will have to decide if shooting and killing an unarmed man who punched you is justified.”
A timeline emerges
The night of his death, Washington was out drinking at The Capitol nightclub. Cranston was also there with fiancée Allison Butler and friend Tyler Smith. Inside the club, Washington approached Butler and “expressed an interest in her,” according to a motion by the defense. Surveillance footage shows a friendly, brief encounter.
“Butler, apparently flattered, smiled and told Washington she was engaged, showing him her ring. Washington gave Butler a hug, which she returned, and then the two separated,” Sali wrote.
Several minutes later, Butler, Cranston and Smith left the bar to smoke cigarettes on the sidewalk. Soon after, Washington also walked outside. He encountered the group about two minutes before Cranston shot him.
Each side of the case interprets evidence from those minutes very differently.
According to prosecutors, Washington brushed into Smith and told Butler, “Hey you’re good looking.”
The state summarized witness accounts given to police and a grand jury.
Cranston is described as saying things to the effect of “she’s already taken, move along,” and “mind your business.” Washington persisted in confronting the group, and Butler told the grand jury he became aggressive. Cranston and Smith reportedly told him to “fuck off.”
Butler told the grand jury that she got nervous “because Ian doesn’t back down, that he’s defensive over me and he’s not the kind of guy to be pushed around.”
After more words were exchanged, Washington punched Cranston twice.
Butler began filming with her cellphone.
“Then, Ms. Butler gets between [them],” Bend Police Det. Camille Christensen testified at Monday’s hearing, summarizing the 26 seconds of surveillance footage after the first punch, and right before the fatal shot.
“Mr. Washington pushes Ms. Butler aside,” Christensen said. “Mr. Smith kind of steps in. He gets punched by Mr. Washington.”
Cranston then fires a single bullet, hitting Washington in the torso.
The prosecution argued that Cranston’s job at a bullet factory and his experience as a hunter show he intended to kill Washington.
“Mr. Cranston’s actions were wildly disproportionate and unreasonable,” Swart, the prosecutor, said at the hearing.
Defense attorney Sali said Cranston did not intend to kill, but rather to stop a threat.
“Washington committed a violent, wholly unprovoked assault against Cranston,” Sali argued. “Cranston had no legal obligation to allow a large, powerful man to continue viciously striking him in the head.”
Smith was interviewed by a police officer that night, and reportedly said he was surprised his friend fired the gun.
“[Smith] stated he did not feel like he was in fear for his life and that Barry was just a drunk dude,” prosecutors stated in court records.
Sali’s motion states Washington’s blood-alcohol level was 0.195%, well over the legal limit to drive. Cranston was not impaired, his attorney told the judge.
Police interviewed Butler immediately after the incident, but Christensen testified law enforcement would not learn she had her own cellphone footage of the shooting for more than a week. Butler later released the footage to a local television station. The next day police obtained it through a search warrant.
Cranston has been held in the Deschutes County jail without bail since Sept. 30. An eight-day trial is scheduled to begin on Nov 1.
Prosecutors unsuccessfully asked the judge to close Monday’s bail hearing to the public, arguing that the evidence could reach potential jurors and compromise a fair trial.
The state’s attempt to hold the hearing in secret was a contrast to highly publicized statements from Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, who has compared the case to a lynching. Hummel did not respond to requests for comment.
Judge Bagley was unpersuaded by the prosecution’s request.
“I think it’s important for everybody to understand what evidence I am considering and reviewing in making my determination in today’s hearing,” she said.
Local social justice organizers have said the shooting exemplifies why Black people don’t feel safe in Central Oregon, where about 93% of the population identifies as white.