Shooter sentenced in death of teenager

Eric Keo shot and killed a friend during a gathering at an Oak Harbor home in 2022.

A sentencing hearing in a manslaughter case this week was more about the tragic loss of 15-year-old Ericolis Kelley, Jr. than about sending another young man to prison.

During the hearing in Island County Superior Court, family members and friends spoke of their memories of Kelley, an Oak Harbor teenager who had so much promise. His mother, Le’Andra Kelley, called him a “gentle soul who loved and cared about so many.”

“You have taken his life, but you will never take his memory,” she said. “He will live on in the hearts and souls of those who you have left behind to mourn his loss.”

Eric Keo, who is 19 years old, pleaded guilty at the hearing Tuesday to manslaughter in the second degree, assault in the third degree and possession of a stolen firearm. The guilty pleas were part of a “global resolution” that settled two separate cases.

As part of the plea bargain, both the prosecutor and defense recommended a sentence of eight and a half years in prison. The recommendation include firearms enhancements that added automatic years to the sentence.

Judge Christon Skinner agreed with the recommendation and imposed it.

Keo shot and killed Kelley during a gathering with friends at an Oak Harbor home on Aug. 30, 2022. Witnesses said he was recklessly playing with the handgun and also pointed it at another boy. He asked Kelley if he believed in God before pulling the trigger.

One of the young men at the party tried to save the injured teenager by driving him to get help and flagging down an ambulance. Kelley, however, died shortly afterward.

On March 10, 2023, Oak Harbor police arrested Keo after finding a stolen handgun in his waistband.

Several family and friends described how the loss of Kelley has changed their lives and still haunts them.

Ericolis Kelley’s aunt, Latoya Surat, said the tragedy left her feeling lost, helpless and disconnected from the world. She described how she took care of him and her daughter when they were just babies, forging an unbreakable bond.

“But no matter what, I’m reminded that he’s not here,” she said, “reminded that there will be no more homecoming, there will be no prom, there will be no more last-minute Friday night football.”

Both Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks and Craig Platt, Keo’s attorney, characterized the deadly shooting as a tragic but unintentional act.

“A young man on the threshold of adulthood had his life stolen from his because of a senseless and careless act,” Banks said. “A family had a shining young man taken from them.”

Platt said his client is essentially a kid who made a horrible mistake for which he is taking responsibility.

“When we start talking about what happened, he tears up, his face turns to ash and he stares down at the floor. And he goes silent,” Platt said. “I mean, he’s clearly devastated by what happened here and regrets it enormously.”

Platt said that Keo was too emotional to speak but that he wanted to apologize for his actions.

In handing Keo the sentence, the judge also noted that it was not an intentional shooting, but he characterized Keo was an immature person who handled a dangerous weapon in a reckless manner.

“The court is mindful of how many people are impacted by this event,” he said, “and, as one person put it, the hurt will never go away.”

Ericolis Kelley

Ericolis Kelley