The teenager fatally shot by former Tulsa Police Officer Shannon Kepler in 2014 didn’t have a gun on or near him when officers began investigating the shooting, several law enforcement witnesses told a jury Friday.
Kepler, 57, is on trial for the fourth time on a first-degree murder charge in the Aug. 5, 2014, death of 19-year-old Jeremey Lake, who briefly dated Kepler’s estranged daughter, Lisa, after meeting her about a week before he died. Kepler’s previous trials on the same charge ended with mistrials due to hung juries in November, February and July.
Kepler has contended that he shot Lake twice in self-defense because he saw him carrying a gun, but a series of officers involved in the case against him each told jurors they didn’t recover a firearm at the crime scene, which was in the area of Lake’s aunt’s home in the 200 block of North Maybelle Avenue.
Three current or former Tulsa Police Department employees — Cpl. Amber McCarty, Michael Brown and Detective Mark Kennedy — also said Lisa Kepler identified her father as the person who shot Lake.
Brown, a former sergeant, said Lisa Kepler “came up to me screaming” at the shooting scene about Shannon Kepler’s involvement in the homicide, which made him “very surprised” based on his knowledge that Kepler was a longtime police officer.
None of them said they had any information to suggest that Lake handled a gun in any way the night he was shot.
Officer David Pyle, who testified Friday afternoon, described the scene as “chaotic” with “a lot of spectators” but also said he didn’t see a gun on Lake or Lake’s acquaintance Josh Mills, a witness Pyle transported to the Detective Division for an interview.
Kennedy, the lead investigator, interviewed Lisa Kepler and eventually her father at the Detective Division about what occurred. After taking a statement from Lisa Kepler and learning about comments from Mills and Lake’s brother, Michael Hamilton, Kennedy told Shannon Kepler he would be arrested on a first-degree murder complaint, Kennedy said.
“He said, ‘He died?’” Kennedy said of Shannon Kepler’s response. “And I said, ‘Yes, he did.’”
Kepler did not consent to a full interview with Kennedy, as he had obtained lead defense attorney Richard O’Carroll as counsel before he turned himself in at the Detective Division.
O’Carroll later brought Kennedy the gun Kepler used to shoot Lake, which is an old Tulsa Police Department service revolver Kepler had purchased for personal use when the department switched to semiautomatic firearms. It had five spent casings and one live round in it.
The black SUV Lisa Kepler said her father drove to the shooting scene was recovered three days later at an east Tulsa parking lot about a mile from the Keplers’ residence, according to testimony from Homicide Detective Jason White.
Cpl. Joe Campbell, a crime scene investigator, said he collected evidence from the vehicle that included a stocking cap. Hamilton has said his brother’s shooter was wearing a head covering, but Kepler’s defense has argued that the cap had been there since the holidays.