On Wednesday a jury finally convicted a former Oklahoma police officer for fatally shooting the black boyfriend of his daughter in a racially charged case that featured three mistrials before a fourth trial found the ex-cop guilty.
Fifty-seven-year-old Shannon Kepler was charged with the first-degree murder of 19-year-old Jeremy Lake in Tulsa, Okla. The jury convicted him of first-degree manslaughter and recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison.
Kepler and his daughter, Lisa Kepler, had previous arguments about her bringing men home, so she left. Shannon found out Lisa was dating Lake from a Facebook profile. Authorities testified that Shannon may have found Lake’s address from a juvenile file that was supposed to be sealed. The back of the file listed Lake’s address and his presumed race—black.
According to CBS News, in August 2014 Shannon Kepler sat in his SUV near Lake’s home and spotted Lake and his 18-year-old daughter walking together. The 24-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department said that he was trying to protect his daughter because she had run away from home numerous times and was living in a “crime-ridden neighborhood.”
When Kepler saw the couple, he got out of his car and asked Lisa what she was doing there. Lisa walked away without an answer, but Lake approached the father. Lake’s aunt testified that her nephew reached out to shake his girlfriend’s father’s hand and introduce himself, but Shannon Kepler says that he saw Lake approaching and opened fire in self-defense.
So the off-duty cop fired. Then he fired again. Kepler claims that he only kept shooting because he saw Lake reaching for a semi-automatic weapon.
“He’s bringing it, I’m bringing it,” Kepler said in court. “It was either him or me. I’m not going to stand there and get shot.” Then Kepler just got in his car and left. He never called 911; nor did he wait for medical help.
No trace of a weapon was ever found at the scene.
After he was arrested for the crime, Kepler claimed that he couldn’t be tried in a state court because he was a Native American. He said he was 1/28th Muscogee (Creek). A judge later determined that he could be tried by state prosecutors.
Kepler’s next tactic was to get blacks eliminated from the jury pool. In each of the previous three trials, only one black person served on each jury. Each trial ended in a deadlocked jury.
The case was partially obscured by another police shooting four days earlier, when Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo. But ultimately a fourth jury found Kepler guilty of the lesser charge after six hours of deliberation. He will be sentenced Nov. 20.
Read more at CBS News.