Ahomeless man who choked to death on a piece of steak Christmas Eve in front of the Black Swan Theatre was well-liked by other members of the Ashland homeless community.

Ahomeless man who choked to death on a piece of steak Christmas Eve in front of the Black Swan Theatre was well-liked by other members of the Ashland homeless community.

Shane B. Jolley, 41, who frequented Ashland over the past two years, died on the sidewalk in front of the small theater at about 8 p.m. Saturday, said Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness. An unchewed 4-ounce piece of steak was found lodged in his throat.

When he died, Jolley was wearing a Santa suit, as he had been for the past few weeks leading up to Christmas. He had been seen on several occasions taking pictures with people who liked his outfit.

No one is sure where Jolley got the steak, but it was probably a leftover meal handed to him by a passerby, said Holderness.

"A lot of people here give their leftovers to the homeless "… and we had heard he was panhandling that night," Holderness said.

Marc St. Andre, 60, a homeless man in Ashland, said Jolley, a friend, died at his feet while four other people performed the Heimlich maneuver on him and then manually tried to remove the chunk of meat from his throat.

St. Andre said everyone was settling down for the night when Jolley began to make a choking gesture and waved for his friends' attention.

"We knew something serious was happening to him," St. Andre said. "Then he hit the floor. Someone immediately called for an ambulance, and went over to help him."

Ashland Fire & Rescue was dispatched at 7:46 p.m. and arrived on scene two minutes later, records show.

"I think he was dead before they showed up," said St. Andre, but paramedics tried to revive him.

Greg Case, division chief for AFR, declined to comment on the details of the incident but said Jolley was transported to Ashland Community Hospital at 8:09 p.m.

"We just got there too late," said Holderness, who said Jolley was dead when police arrived a few minutes after paramedics.

Holderness said police received information that Jolley had been drinking and smoking marijuana within a few hours of his death, but was uncertain whether that played any role in the choking.

Records show that Jolley was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana on Nov. 16.

"I think he had a few beers," said St. Andre. "He was probably just buzzing a little bit, just being his normal self."

Holderness said authorities are having a hard time contacting Jolley's next of kin, but are attempting to locate his ex-wife, hoping she might know a member of his immediate family.

"He was a pretty wild guy," said St. Andre, "but he was a good guy in the sense that he was friendly."

The homeless community plans to hold a memorial vigil for Jolley at 8 p.m. Saturday in front of the Black Swan.

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.