Convicted in Oklahoma state court for first degree manslaughter after fatally shooting his daughter’s boyfriend, a former Tulsa police officer was recently charged with first degree murder in federal court. The former cop appealed his 15-year sentence in state prison after the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma in July.
In August 2014, off-duty Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler watched his daughter and her boyfriend, nineteen-year-old Jeremey Lake, from his SUV before approaching them on the street. According to Kepler, the off-duty officer acted out of self-defense when he opened fire at Lake and fatally shot him.
But according to Lake’s aunt, her nephew was reaching out to shake Kepler’s hand to introduce himself when Kepler fired several rounds at him. Although Kepler told investigators that Lake was armed, no weapon was found at the scene.
In October 2017, Kepler was convicted on one count of first degree manslaughter after jurors in three previous trials could not decide whether to find him guilty of Lake’s murder. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
In July, the Supreme Court ruled in McGirt v. Oklahoma that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s original reservation boundaries were never legally disestablished, meaning the state doesn’t have criminal jurisdiction on the land as it pertains to the Major Crimes Act. As a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Kepler appealed his case based on the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced that Kepler has been charged in federal court with first degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon.
“Nineteen-year-old Jeremey Lake’s life was senselessly cut short in 2014 when Shannon Kepler allegedly shot and killed him. A jury convicted Mr. Kepler in state court, but the McGirt decision has impacted his conviction. The need to pursue justice remains. The United States Attorney’s Office will now ask a federal jury to convict Shannon Kepler,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores in a recent press release. “Our victim specialists are communicating with Jeremey’s family and will be with them every step of the way as this case moves forward in federal court. Our prosecutors have worked hand in hand with our partners at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office to ensure this young man and his family experience a full measure of justice.”
In response to the federal charges, Kepler’s attorney, Richard O’Carroll, released the following statement on Friday: “The U.S. Attorney is making a mistake. Mr. Kepler has already been through four jury trials and a direct appeal. He was acquitted of murder in state court. Now the U.S. Attorney thinks it’s OK to again charge murder with a firearm enhancement? We will be moving to dismiss for due process violations.”