Former TPD Officer Bound Over For Trial In 19-Year-Old's Murder

Thursday, December 18th 2014, 2:30 pm
By: News On 6

A Tulsa County judge on Thursday ruled there is enough evidence for a former longtime Tulsa police officer to stand trial for the murder of  his daughter's boyfriend.

Shannon Kepler has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and shooting with intent to kill in the August 5, 2014 death of 19-year-old Jeremy Lake.

Prosecutors have said Kepler drove up to the couple as they were walking down the street and fired at Lake at close range, killing him.

8/14/2014 Related Story: TPD Officer Shannon Kepler Pleads Not Guilty In Tulsa Teen's Death

The first witness called on Thursday was Phillip Milligan, a neighbor who heard the gunfire and was one of the first people to get to Lake's body. Milligan described the scene, as well as a black SUV he said left the scene. He testified that he heard Lisa Kepler screaming that her dad was the shooter.

Lake's 13-year-old brother, Michael Hamilton, also testified. He said he saw Shannon Kepler get out of the vehicle and shoot Lake twice, then fire at Lisa Kepler and at him as he sat on the porch 30 feet away.

Prosecutors filed a second count of shooting with intent to kill against Kepler Thursday based on Hamilton's testimony. He was already charged with one count for shooting at his daughter, according to prosecutors.

Lake met 18-year-old Lisa Kepler at a homeless shelter where he volunteered. Lisa Kepler said she was kicked out of her parents' house and Lake gave her a place to stay. She said he had been her boyfriend for about a week before he was killed.

The SUV was found at a Motel 6 three days after Lake's death, police said. It was towed as evidence.

Shannon Kepler turned himself in hours after the shooting. He was a 24-year TPD veteran who was off duty at the time of the killing. His wife, Gina, also is an officer and still is on the Tulsa police force.

8/6/2014 Related Story: Two Tulsa Police Officers Arrested After Fatal Shooting Of Daughter's Boyfriend

Gina Kepler was initially arrested after the shooting and before her husband turned himself in. Officers alleged she was intentionally keeping information from them on his whereabouts and the location of the SUV. Prosecutors later elected not to charge her with a crime.

In Thursday's hearing, the prosecution and the defense, led by well-known attorney Richard O'Carroll, argued several times during the morning about the judge's decision to remove Gina Kepler from the proceedings. The prosecution wanted her removed because it says it may call her as a witness. The defense objected, saying her presence is key to its case.

The second witness was Michael Hamilton, Lake's 13-year-old brother. He appeared to be very nervous when he first took the stand. At one point during cross examination, he asked the judge if he could be excused because he said he was starting to get mad. The judge refused and told him to answer the questions as best he could.

He testified he lives with his “Nana,” who he identified as his maternal grandmother, Barbara Webster. He said he's lived with her since he was about a year old.

He testified that on the day his brother was killed, he was sitting on the front porch with Lake's friend, Josh, when a black vehicle pulled up and stopped in the street. He said Lake and Lisa Kepler left the house and walked down the street as the vehicle approached. He heard a man's voice yelling at Lake as the couple approached the vehicle but said he couldn't make out what the man was saying.

He testified Lake started heading toward the house, then stopped and turned around. Hamilton said Lake did not have any kind of weapon.

He said “a shadowy figure” got out of the vehicle with a black and silver handgun and fired two shots at Lake. He testified the man wore a “beanie” and a coat and had a mustache. The man pointed the gun at Lisa Kepler, who had run behind a bush, and the man fired, then pointed the gun at Hamilton and fired, he said.

The bullet fired at him hit the house and ricocheted, grazing him on the right arm, he said. Under cross examination, he said he was later told what hit him was a piece of brick.

He testified the man fired five shots in all.

“Dude just stops for some reason. Gets back into the car and leaves,” he told the court.

The prosecutor asked him to point out the person in the courtroom who he saw fire the shots and he pointed to the defendant, Shannon Kepler.

On cross examination, Hamilton admitted it was Lisa Kepler who told him the man who fired the gun was Shannon Kepler.

8/6/2014 Related Story: Family, Friends Mourn Loss Of Man Killed In Shooting

Phillip Milligan, a neighbor who lived three houses down from where the shooting took place, testified that he went outside when he heard the shooting and saw the black SUV leaving the area. He ran to the body he saw lying in the street and told his wife to get some towels. He described the bullet wounds he saw on Lake's body and how he called 911.

He testified he heard Lisa Kepler yell, “It was my effing [his word] dad. He shot Jeremy. He tried to shoot me, too.”

He said there was a crowd of about 10 people around the body.On cross examination he admitted to having two criminal convictions, one for theft of anhydrous ammonia in 1998 and one for possession of meth in 2006. However, he said he's fostering children now and is drug tested two or three times a week and has been clean for years.

Lisa Kepler also testified Thursday. After she was finished, the prosecution asked the judge to order Shannon Kepler to stand trial and he did.