An Oklahoma jury convicted Shannon Kepler, a White former officer with the Tulsa Police Department, on first-degree manslaughter charges for fatally shooting Jeremey Lake, a Black teenager who was dating his daughter.
The Associated Press reports that jurors in Kepler’s Oklahoma state trial recommended a prison sentence of 15 years for the 2014 killing. State prosecutors attempted to charge Kepler with murder in three previous trials, with each attempt ending with deadlocked juries and subsequent mistrials.
Per The AP’s description, prosecutors say that Kepler drove up to the 19-year-old Lake and his then-18-year-old daughter Lisa while they were walking down a Tulsa street on August 5, 2014. The state adds that Kepler shot and killed Lake when he reached to shake his hand. Kepler’s attorneys argued that he was trying to protect Lisa, who had run away from home after he banned her from bringing dates to their house. He maintained that he shot Lake in self-defense after seeing him pull out a gun. Department investigators did not find a weapon on Lake’s body, and Kepler resigned from the department after he was indicted.
The AP adds that Kepler’s trials drew criticism from local racial justice activists who accused Kepler’s defense of intentionally excluding Black jurors. The first three inconclusive trials each had only one Black juror. The AP did not disclose the racial composition of the fourth trial.
Ahead of yesterday’s (October 18) decision, Kepler argued that his alleged 1/128th of Muscogee Native ancestry forbade state prosecutors from trying him. The state threw out that argument and let the trial proceed as scheduled.
“There’s partial closure,” Lake’s father Carl Morse said during a press conference yesterday, per local outlet News on 6. “Nothing will ever be what it was, but there’s partial closure that this is resolved and we don’t have to do this anymore.”
Kepler will be sentenced next month.