Shannon Kepler Found Guilty of Using a Firearm in the Commission of Second Degree Murder and of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Indian Country
After six hours of deliberation, a federal jury found Shannon Kepler guilty of murdering 19-year-old Jeremey Lake and for firing at Lake’s younger brother on August 5, 2014. At the time of the murder, Kepler was a 24-year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department.
Shannon Kepler, 60, was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals moments after the verdict. He will be sentenced on Aug. 11, 2021.
“Today, Shannon Kepler was found guilty of using and discharging a firearm in the second degree murder of Jeremey Lake and for assaulting Lake’s brother with a firearm in Indian Country after his previous state conviction was dismissed as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. I am thankful for today’s verdict, and the jury is to be commended for their service,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “I’m extremely proud of the FBI and Tulsa Police Department as well as Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ross Lenhardt and Sean Taylor for their tireless preparation and successful prosecution of Mr. Kepler in federal court.”
Jury selection occurred on Monday, April 19, before U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, followed by opening statements and testimony starting April 20. In his opening, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Lenhardt set the scene. Shannon Kepler and his wife were having a difficult time with their adopted daughter, Lisa. The behavior continued, and the Keplers eventually dropped her off at a homeless shelter shortly after she turned 18. Kepler provided her with no clothing—other than what she was wearing, no money, no cell phone, and no credit cards.
Days after dropping her off, Kepler logged into Lisa’s Facebook page and saw she was suddenly “in a relationship” with Jeremey Lake. Kepler’s attorney stated that Kepler was “alarmed” with what he saw on Lake’s Facebook page, and, while still at work, Kepler requested a records clerk to run a search on Lake’s history. Kepler learned that Lake was the victim of child abuse at a very young age and was previously charged as a juvenile after pushing a social services worker. Those charges did not result in a conviction.
Kepler then copied down Lake’s last known address—202 North Maybelle Avenue—on the printed arrest and booking sheet involving Lake. Later, Kepler changed clothes, waited until dark, retrieved his .357 magnum revolver, and drove his wife’s dark SUV to the home where Lake was staying. Kepler testified that he knew the revolver would not leave shell casings at the scene. Kepler arrived at approximately 9 pm and saw his daughter and Lake walking together. He tried to talk to his daughter, but she rebuffed him and started walking toward the home. As Lake stood in the street, Kepler pulled his revolver and shot Jeremey Lake twice, quickly causing his death. Kepler then turned and fired at least three more rounds in the direction of the witnesses—Lake’s friend Josh Mills, Lake’s 13-year-old brother Michael Hamilton, and Kepler’s own daughter, Lisa. Hamilton was sitting on the home’s front porch at the time and was slightly injured during the shooting. Kepler then fled the scene, testifying that he knew his fellow Tulsa police officers would be hunting for him, his vehicle, and his weapon. He abandoned the SUV at a former Motel 6 just off the Broken Arrow Expressway and eventually turned himself in. Approximately 14 hours after the shooting, his former attorney brought the still-loaded murder weapon into the Tulsa Police Station in a zip lock bag.
When testifying, Kepler claimed that, although no gun was ever found at the scene, he shot Lake in self-defense after Lake “got the jump on him,” pulling a shiny, semi-automatic pistol from his pants pocket. While Kepler’s attorney argued that a gun found in the Tulsa Police Department several days later “could” have been taken from the scene, expert and forensic evidence proved that the two incidents were unrelated.
The prosecution proved that Kepler had not only heard about the unrelated gun, but that he had also been provided with police reports and photographs of it before ever testifying.
In his closing statement, Lenhardt reviewed the charges and critical evidence that supported a finding of guilty on each count. The prosecution asked the jury to conclude that although Kepler alleged that he went to 202 North Maybelle to confront his daughter, he actually went there to confront Lake. The evidence proved that once there, Kepler shot Lake twice, and then began shooting at the witnesses that were present.
Kepler appealed his October 2017 state manslaughter conviction on grounds that his case should have been tried in federal court based on the McGirt v. Oklahoma U.S. Supreme Court ruling since he was a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the shooting took place on the nation’s Reservation.
The FBI and Tulsa Police Department joined forces to lead the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ross E. Lenhardt and Sean J. Taylor are prosecuting the case. Mr. Lenhardt is a prosecutor from the Western District of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Taylor is a prosecutor from the Eastern District of Texas. Both volunteered to assist prosecution efforts here in the Northern District of Oklahoma due to increased jurisdictional responsibilities regarding crimes involving Native American victims or defendants and that occur within the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Cherokee Nation Reservations.