TULSA, Okla. — A former Oklahoma police officer was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison for the 2014 killing of his daughter’s boyfriend after being convicted of second-degree murder the fifth time he went on trial in the case.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell sentenced Shannon Kepler, 61, to 300 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He also ordered Kepler, a former Tulsa police officer, to pay restitution to cover the cost of a headstone for Jeremey Lake, who was 19 years old when Kepler killed him.
“Kepler, at the time, was sworn to uphold the law but instead made a series of decisions that led to the young man’s murder,” U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson said in a statement. “Today’s 25-year sentence provides a measure of justice to Mr. Lake’s family, though I know their healing continues.”
Kepler’s attorney, Stan Monroe, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment about the sentence. He previously indicated that Kepler plans to appeal his conviction.
Kepler testified at his trial that he fired in self-defense because he thought Lake had pointed a handgun at him. No gun was found at the scene.
There also was a racial undercurrent to the trials. Kepler killed Lake, who was Black, days before a white police officer killed Michael Brown, a Black 18-year-old, in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking protests and fanning the national debate over the treatment of Black people by law enforcement.
The trial was Kepler’s fifth but his only one on federal charges. His first three murder trials in state court ended with hung juries. The fourth trial ended with a manslaughter conviction and a 15-year prison term, but the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that conviction based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction for crimes that happen on tribal reservations in which the defendants or victims are tribal citizens.
Kepler is a citizen of the Muscogee Nation and the shooting occurred on land within the tribe’s historic reservation.