- Associated Press - Friday, August 15, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Dozens of residents gathered Friday near a highway overpass, where authorities say a teenager was fatally shot last week by an off-duty police officer, to urge restraint and patience among the public while the case is investigated.

The tenor of the event on the city’s north side was toned down significantly this week as 19-year-old Jeremey Lake’s family members - and the rest of the country - watched four days of clashes between policemen and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager there. Lake was biracial; the veteran Tulsa officer accused of fatally shooting him is white.

“This is a rally, not a riot,” said Lake’s aunt, Pam Wilkins.

People held signs at the several-hour tribute that read “Pray for Peace,” ”Vengeance is Mine Sayeth the Lord” and “We Need God in America Again.” At one point, more than 20 attendees joined hands to pray and sing “Amazing Grace” across the street from where Lake was allegedly confronted and shot by a police officer who saw Lake walking with the officer’s daughter.

“We have to forgive this gentleman for what he did; we have to do this,” Carl Morse, Lake’s father, told the crowd. “I pray for the families on both sides.”

Police officer Shannon Kepler was arrested on a complaint of first-degree murder. His wife, Gina Kepler, was arrested on a complaint of accessory to murder after the fact. Prosecutors are expected to formally file charges against the couple next week.

The Keplers, who each have 24 years on the force, are on paid administrative leave. Their defense attorneys have described the couple as model officers who devoted their lives to serving the community and the three daughters they adopted from a troubled home.

“Between the two of them, they have defended the Constitution for nearly 50 years, and the police department is punishing them for availing themselves of the Constitution,” said Richard O’Carroll, Shannon Kepler’s attorney.

Some residents who attended the rally refused to tone down their comments. The Rev. Robert Crawford, who lives in the neighborhood, said there were too many unanswered questions in the case, and suggested race could have played a role in the shooting.

Sammi Johnson said she shared the same concerns.

“I have two children of color and worry they’re not as safe,” said Johnson, who is white. Her two children, who are black, stood with her. One of them, 11-year-old Vanessa Fitch, said she was at the event “to support Jeremey.”

But police spokeswoman Jillian Roberson said the probe has been thorough and fair, and that investigators have treated the case like any other involving a homicide.

“Now it’s in the district attorney’s hands,” she said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide