A Deschutes County jury Wednesday found Ian Cranston guilty of first-degree manslaughter, more than a year after he shot and killed Barry Washington, Jr., an unarmed Black man, outside a bar in downtown Bend.
The jury found him not guilty of the more severe second-degree murder charge, but found him guilty of all five other charges. Those included second-degree manslaughter, first-degree assault and two counts of unlawful use of a weapon.
The conviction came after a two-week trial, in which attorneys pored over video of the shooting. With much of the incident captured on video, the case hinged on whether jurors thought Cranston acted in self-defense and feared for his safety at the time.
The killing spurred a series of protests at the time of Washington’s death, as similar demonstrations occurred across the nation over the deaths of unarmed Black men. Washington’s mother has repeatedly said her son would still be alive if he wasn’t Black. Recently, protesters also have marched in downtown Bend every day of the trial.
Washington’s mother, Lawanda Roberson, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse following the verdict. She said, while she had hoped for a murder conviction, she was still glad the jury had convicted Cranston.
“I’m just pleased to have some sort of justice for my son,” Roberson said. “It’s been very hard. Hopefully, this is just something that will bring a little bit of closure.”
Attorneys on both sides said Cranston and Washington got into an argument in September 2021 after Washington flirted with Cranston’s fiancée, which eventually led to punches being thrown. The interpretations of what led to those punches and the events that followed have divided the two sides throughout the trial.
Prosecutors spent much of their case attempting to illustrate that Cranston did not fear for his safety during the shooting. Assistant District Attorney J. Michael Swart revealed surprising new evidence during closing arguments Tuesday, showing Cranston’s first action after shooting Washington was to take a drag of a cigarette in his hand.
Cranston holding and smoking a cigarette during the fight, Swart argued, showed he was calm and not in fear for his personal safety. It contradicted the defense’s argument that Cranston immediately tried to render aid to Washington after he was shot.
“Clint Eastwood wouldn’t have been prouder,” Swart said of Cranston’s actions. “He’s got his cigarette in his hand the entire time.”
Prosecutors also asked Cranston about his history owning firearms, and why he chose to bring a concealed weapon to a bar that night when he would be drinking. The defense has noted Oregon law doesn’t forbid drinking while carrying a firearm.
District Attorney John Hummel declined to speak with reporters after the trial. In a written statement, he said the jury’s decision provides accountability for Cranston’s actions in 2021.
“Today is not a day to rejoice, nor is it a day to celebrate,” Hummel said. “This verdict does not provide Ms. Roberson what she ultimately wants, but hopefully knowing that the residents of Deschutes County valued Barry’s life provides her some comfort moving forward.”
A self-defense argument
Cranston’s defense team, led by attorney Kevin Sali, insisted he acted in self defense that night, particularly focusing on alleged injuries Cranston received after Washington punched him twice in the head. Sali said Cranston had no way of knowing how severe another punch could’ve been.
“It was a shot that the law absolutely gave him the right to fire,” Sali told the jury Tuesday before they entered deliberations.
During testimony, Cranston said he knew shooting Washington could kill him, but that he did not intend for Washington to die. He said he was trying to stop what he perceived as an ongoing threat.
Sali also repeatedly referred to the size difference between Washington and Cranston, pointing out that his client weighs less and was much shorter than Washington. Prosecutors mentioned at various points that Cranston lost 60 pounds between the shooting and the start of the trial, and was much closer to Washington’s weight at the time of the killing.
During its case, the defense called Dr. Jennifer Stankus, an Olympia-based doctor who often testifies in trials. Stankus said she believed Cranston’s skull was fractured that night based on his medical reports, though medical staff who attended to him on the night of the shooting did not find such an injury. Sali later changed his argument to say that another punch had the potential of fracturing his client’s skull.
Sali called only two witnesses to the stand throughout the trial — Stankus and Cranston. He spent much of Cranston’s testimony showing the jury video footage of the shooting, stating that Cranston did not exacerbate the situation, while Washington did on multiple occasions.
Prosecutors said Cranston had multiple chances to leave, but chose to stay engaged with Washington while he pulled out his firearm.
The jury deliberated Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning before convicting Cranston of the first-degree manslaughter charge, which is a class A felony in Oregon, and can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence.
Sali told reporters following the verdict that they plan to appeal the decision. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 28.