- Shannon Kepler, a white ex-police officer, has been convicted of killing his daughter’s black boyfriend in 2014.
- The verdict came after three mistrials in which Kepler was charged with first-degree murder. All ended in hung juries.
- Prosecutors alleged that Kepler had “hunted” down his daughter’s boyfriend, but Kepler testified that he shot him out of self-defense.
A white former Tulsa police officer was convicted Wednesday of first-degree manslaughter over fatally shooting his daughter’s black boyfriend.
Prosecutors alleged that Shannon Kepler, 57, “hunted” down 19-year-old Jeremey Lake on August 5, 2014, and sought to confront him over his relationship with Kepler’s daughter. Kepler, however, testified that he shot Lake in self-defense because he believed Lake had a gun, the Tulsa World reported.
Kepler was off-duty at the time of the shooting, but had used Tulsa Police Department resources to find information about Lake, which included an old police report that contained Lake’s address and race.
Lake and Kepler’s daughter Lisa had met at a homeless shelter Lake frequently volunteered at. Kepler and his wife sent Lisa Kepler to the shelter following what Kepler said were conflicts at home over his daughter’s behavior and tendency to sneak out. After Lake and Lisa Kepler struck up a romantic relationship, he invited her to stay with him at his aunt’s home.
The confrontation began after Kepler pulled up to Lake’s home while Lisa Kepler and Lake were walking outside.
Kepler told the court he had driven to Lake’s home because he wanted to give his daughter the information he had obtained on Lake through the police department, which he said caused him to fear for his daughter’s safety.
Kepler approached the couple and asked his daughter what she was doing at Lake’s home, according to testimony from Lisa Kepler. She said she turned around and walked away.
Lake then approached Kepler’s vehicle and introduced himself as Lisa Kepler’s boyfriend and reached out to shake Kepler’s hand, at which point Kepler opened fire, according to testimony from Lake’s aunt. Kepler said it was because he thought he saw Lake reaching for a gun.
“He’s bringing it, I’m bringing it,” Kepler told the courtroom during his testimony on Wednesday. “It was either him or me. I’m not going to stand there and get shot.”
But prosecutors pointed out that no other witnesses saw Lake with a gun. They also noted that Kepler left the scene without attempting to assist Lake or call 911.
“There is no Santa Claus. There was no gun,” Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray told court. “And Shannon Kepler is guilty of murder.”
Kepler is scheduled for sentencing on November 20, but the jury that convicted him recommended he serve 15 years in prison and pay a $10,000 fine.
The jury opted to convict Kepler of the lesser charge of manslaughter, although Kepler stood trial for first-degree murder. It was Kepler’s fourth first-degree murder trial after the previous three ended with hung juries. In the previous trials, the jury selection process had been assailed by critics after each jury contained only one black juror.
Advocates of police reform celebrated Wednesday’s verdict as a rare example of a white police officer being convicted over killing a black person, although he was off duty at the time of the shooting.
Another white Tulsa police officer, Betty Shelby, was acquitted of first-degree manslaughter in May over fatally shooting Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man.