Serious questions were asked Saturday night about the shooting death of a young Bay Area man, who was gunned down in the central Oregon resort town of Bend nearly a week ago.
22-year-old BJ Washington spent a lot of time in a Benicia park not far from where he grew up.
Sadly, dozens of people remembered him at a vigil at that same park Saturday.
“I am very shocked. I am in disbelief. I always hear about these stories,” said Lawanda Robinson, Washington’s mother.
Robinson’s pain was still raw during the vigil but she told NBC Bay Area that she is determined to give her son a voice.
“I really want to speak for my son because I know there have been a lot of misleading stories out there,” she said.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department said Washington and 27-year-old Ian Cranston got into a fist fight Sunday outside a bar. Officials added that Cranston then pulled a handgun and shot Washington one time, killing him.
But Washington’s family said other men were arguing with him when Cranston walked up and shot Washington unprovoked.
Cranston had only been charged with manslaughter and walked out of jail hours later, outraging the community.
Washington’s family believed it’s a possible premeditated hate crime.
“Basically, he told him that they can do to him whatever they wanted to do and kept calling him the 'N' word,” said Valencia, Washington’s aunt.
Saturday's vigil was also about honoring Washington, who his friends and family described him as a “big teddy bear” and a gentle soul.
“BJ was my best friend. I’ve known him since the first grade. He was goofy. He was funny,” said Chevy Franklin of Benicia.
As demonstrators in Bend, Oregon continued to call for justice, the family said they want the Oregon State police to take over the investigation.