A former Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer was sentenced to 15 years behind bars after killing his daughter’s black boyfriend.
However, his sentence seems light considering his crime and the circumstances surrounding it. Was he spared because he’s white and a former cop?
Shannon Kepler, 57, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter. In 2014, he shot Jeremy Lake to death. Lake was his daughter’s 19-year-old boyfriend at the time.
"I could hate you," Jeremey Lake's father said today to ex-Tulsa cop Shannon Kepler, "but it's not going to change anything. What you did was wrong, and now you have to pay the consequences of your actions."— Samantha Vicent (@samanthavicent) November 20, 2017
Kepler sentenced to 15 yrs for manslaughter 1°: https://t.co/gtmZhqs3xc pic.twitter.com/eeucCFg84a
The incident happened after Kepler drove to Lake’s house hoping to talk to his daughter, he told the court. At the time, he added, his then-18-year-old daughter, Lisa Kepler, had run away from home and had become romantically involved with Lake.
After they met with Kepler at Lake’s house, Kepler's daughter turned to walk to the house when she heard several gunshots. She turned around to see that her father had fatally shot Lake.
Shannon Kepler claims he saw Lake pulling out a semi-automatic gun out of his pocket, but witnesses never saw a gun. Police also say Lake didn't have a weapon on him.
Still, Shannon Kepler maintains that he shot in self-defense.
“It was either him or me. I’m not going to stand there and get shot,” he explained.
His daughter said she never ran away from home. Instead, her parents kicked her out of the house, dropping her off at a homeless shelter where she met Lake. After moving in with him and his aunt, her father showed up at their door.
According to Lake’s aunt, the black teen had simply reached out to shake Kepler’s hand when the retired cop shot him. After shooting the teen in cold blood, Kepler failed to offer medical aid or to call 911, only turning himself in hours later.
The deadly incident involving Kepler and Lake happened just four days before another black teen, Michael Brown, was fatally shot by a cop in Ferguson, Missouri.
After three trials, which were ultimately dismissed as civil rights activists claimed that black jurors were deliberately kept from participating, Kepler was convicted during a fourth trial. Alas, it’s hard to ignore that the 15-year sentence alone seems too lax considering the circumstances. After all, the victim was unarmed and ready to extend his hand out to shake the killer’s hand. But instead of kindness and reciprocity, all he got was blind hate.
While the very fact that a former white cop has actually been convicted for killing a black teen is an important first step, it’s clear that there is much more work to be done within the criminal justice system.