Girlfriend mourns activist Sean Kealiher: ‘World lost a hero’

Crime

Anti-fascists put up a memorial near local bar Cider Riot

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Candles and caution tape mark the spot where an anti-fascist activist was killed in Northeast Portland just after midnight on Saturday.

Homicide detectives would say little about the circumstances surrounding the death of 23-year-old Sean Daniel Kealiher — but for his grieving recent partner, it’s the loss of “the love of my life.”

“I always told him: You’re my hero for the things that you do. You stand up for the people who are voiceless,” said Kristy Hathaway on Saturday, Oct. 12, speaking next to a makeshift memorial outside the Democratic Party of Oregon offices, 232 N.E. 9th Ave.

Their relationship began three years ago, during a demonstration against the election of President Donald Trump. Surrounded by thousands, Kealiher stood out in the crowd.

“The world lost a hero,” Hathaway said through tears.

Hathaway and Kealiher had stopped dating several months ago, but the former long-term partner said Kealiher was likely out with friends at Cider Riot!, the unofficial watering hole for local anti-fascists, when “something must have provoked” the incident. The 28-year-old learned of the incident after his friends contacted her from an emergency room.

Unconfirmed media reports indicate that Kealiher, a lifelong Portlander who spoke out at several 2016 rallies at PSU and elsewhere, was struck by the driver of an SUV. Police responded to the area on reports of shots fired, and found the vehicle abandoned with evidence of gunfire inside. An eyewitness who was camping nearby told the Tribune’s media partner, KOIN 6 News, that he heard a collision, yelling and the sound of about four shots after the crash.

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

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler called the situation “alarming and heartbreaking.”

“Our deepest sympathies go out to family and friends of the victim,” he said.

Kealiher, who sometimes went by the nickname Armeanio, was transported in a private car to a local hospital, where he died, authorities said. The medical examiner said the cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Growing up with a father who wasn’t around, Kealiher immersed himself in the martial arts scene, winning medals for his skill, and gained a reputation as mature for his age. But Hathaway recalled that no matter how tough his outer shell, he had a soft heart.

Kristy Hathaway and Sean Kealiher in an undated photo provided by Kristy Hathaway to the Portland Tribune, October 13, 2019

“I wish everyone could know the side of him that I saw at home, when we were with our cats, just cuddling,” she said. “I think if he saw anyone treated unfairly he would have stepped up without question, without hesitation. And that’s why I fell in love with him.”

Owner Abram Goldman-Armstrong is now planning to sell the cidery. The joint was perhaps quieter than usual Saturday evening, weighed down by more than the eyes of a Portland Police Bureau squad car parked down the street.

The patrons, some dressed in black, drank with a purpose: to mourn a rallygoer — and a romance.

Police seek clues

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Scott Broughton at (503) 823-3774 or Scott.Broughton@portlandoregon.gov — or Detective Rico Beniga at 503-823-0457 or Rico.Beniga@portlandoregon.gov.

DPO offers condolences

The Democratic Party of Oregon has offered its condolences to those grieving a local protest organizer and anti-fascist. They said the homicide is not related to official party activity.

“We’re not aware of any connection,” said Brad Martin, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon. “This is a community tragedy, that a young person would suffer this kind of a crime.”

Martin called on local police to muster their full resources to solve the case.

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