Aware Tulsa: conviction of police officer sparks protest

Former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler was convicted on October 18. It was his fourth trial dealing with the 2014 shooting death of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake.

The case added to national headlines because Kepler is white. Lake was black.

Kepler fatally wounded Lake in August, 2014, at Lake’s home. He testified that he went to the residence to seek out his daughter, who was in a romantic relationship with Lake. The two met at a homeless shelter.

Kepler claimed he had important information about Lake that he wanted to share with his daughter. He gained this information using Tulsa PD investigative tools. What he learned made him concerned for his daughter’s safety.

Lake’s friends said he was unarmed and reaching to shake the officer’s hand. Kepler told the jury that he thought Lake was reaching for a gun.

The prosecution made sure to point out that the only person who claimed to have seen a gun in Lake’s hand was the man on trial for killing him.

A full report of what transpired when Kepler reached Lake’s residence can be found in the Tulsa World article or in the Washington Post story. Bottom line, Lake ended up dead.

Questions also arose about why, after firing his weapon, Kepler did not see fit to call 911 about the bleeding Lake. Kepler did turn himself in 2.5 hours after the incident.

Kepler’s previous first-degree murder trials were in November, 2016, and February and July of 2017. Each ended with a hung jury.

Last week, a jury convicted him of first-degree manslaughter and recommended a 15 year prison sentence.

On Sunday, a group calling itself “Aware Tulsa” protested outside the Tulsa County Courthouse.

The group, which at most numbered around 50, heard from a few different speakers in regards to police brutality.

Aware Tulsa held the event in conjunction with a national day of protests.

The speakers included Reverend Joey Crutcher. Former Tulsa Police Officer Betty Shelby fatally shot his son, Terence, in September 2016.

The District Attorney charged Shelby with first degree manslaughter when the shooting was labeled a homicide. In May, a jury acquitted her of the charges.

Joey Crutcher told the crowd, “We need to change the culture, definitely, here in Tulsa.” Later, Crutcher claimed he felt his son was “shot down” by Shelby while walking with his hands raised.

He also “went on the record” to say now is the time for Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan to retire. “We need new leadership in the city of Tulsa” Crutcher exhorted.

Another speaker made the statement that since only Mayor G.T. Bynum has the power to dismiss the chief, he needs to urgently take action.

State Representative Regina Goodwin, also on hand for the protest, concluded that people must never be afraid to stand up for what is right.

“As Pastor Crutcher said, when we’re talking about pro-justice, it doesn’t mean we’re anti-police. We’re just anti-bad police officers.”

Post Author: Alex Garoffolo