Portland activist dies after crash, shooting; death a homicide

Multnomah County

A Portland man was taken to the hospital where doctors tried to save him

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man who was dropped off at a local hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning has died, said Portland Police. They are now investigating the violent chain of events that led up to his death.

Authorities have connected his death with a car crash and gunfire that were reported around 12:15 a.m. Saturday at Northeast 8th Avenue and Davis Street. Officers arrived at the scene this morning to find a car that had crashed into a nearby building. They also found evidence of gunfire in and around the SUV. However, the car was abandoned and no one was found in the area.

Shortly after beginning their investigation, police learned that someone had been dropped off at a nearby hospital with traumatic injuries. They believe that after the car crash, friends of the victim brought him to the hospital.

Sean D. Kealiher in an undated photo his family provided police with. October 12, 2019. (Courtesy Portland Police Bureau)

That man has been identified as 23-year-old Sean Kealiher, of Portland.

Doctors attempted to save him, but he did not survive.

The Medical Examiner’s Office said that an autopsy indicated he died from blunt force trauma. His death is now being investigated as a homicide.

Witnesses reported hearing shouting just before Kealiher was injured. A man told KOIN 6 News he was in his tent nearby when he heard what sounded like 2 cars colliding, followed by shouting. Daryl Perez said when he came out of his tent, he saw the SUV hung up on the sidewalk—it had hit a tree outside of the offices of the Democratic Party of Oregon and the driver was trying unsuccessfully to move the car. He also said he heard 4 shots fired, but wasn’t sure who had a gun.

“He was lifeless,” said Perez. “It was difficult for them, they were…just trying to get him to get up. He’s heavy—he slipped out of their hands a couple times before they got him back to the car.”

The Democratic Party offices were closed at the time of the crash, but the damage left from the incident was still visible.

A message was written on the wall and roses left out on the sidewalk where a crash that killed a 23-year-old Portland man happened. October 12, 2019 (KOIN)

“It’s very sad this would happen to someone in our town,” said Brad Martin, the Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Oregon. “He was involved in progressive causes and deeply committed, and it makes it all the more sad and concerning.”

At the crash site, a memorial for Kealiher has begun to form. “Armenio rest in power” and “#Resist” was written on the wall of the building where the SUV crashed. Friends of Kealiher told KOIN 6 News that Armenio was his nickname, and described him as a social justice champion. Roses were also scattered on the sidewalk under the message.

“He was very dedicated to his community and a very solid friend,” said Kealiher’s friend Meagan Vogel. “He was always challenging old lines of thought and trying to be a bigger person. I really appreciated how much he put himself on the line for other people.”

“We loved him and we are all really shaken,” said Vogel. “But we are going to come together because that’s what we are all about.”

Later Saturday evening, Mayor Ted Wheeler reacted to the news of Kealiher’s death on Twitter.

Mayor Ted Wheeler commented on the news of Sean Kealiher’s death on Twitter Saturday evening. October 12, 2019 (Twitter)

Investigators are looking to speak with anyone who witnessed the incident, or the chain of events that led up to the crash. No arrests have been made at this time.

If anyone has information, they’re asked to contact Detective Scott Broughton at 503.823.3774 or Detective Rico Beniga at 503.823.0457.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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