- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Dozens of mourners packed a small Baptist church on the northeast side of Tulsa Wednesday to pay respects to a 19-year-old man authorities say was fatally shot last week by an off-duty police officer.

An hour or so before the mid-morning service at the Dawson Freewill Baptist Church, the body of Jeremey Lake lay in a gray, open casket with a spray of roses on one side. As family and friends filed inside the modest, wood-paneled sanctuary near the Tulsa airport, some gathered around the casket - crying, praying and whispering last goodbyes.

Meanwhile, seven of Lake’s family members told The Associated Press in interviews before Wednesday’s service that they were still coming to grips with the death of Lake. They described him as a transient with a big heart who befriended the numerous homeless men and women who camped out on streets and under the overpass located a stone’s throw away from where Lake lived with his aunt, Pam Wilkins.

He wasn’t into drugs or alcohol, family members said, and available public records suggest Lake had no criminal past. Wilkins said Lake was just getting his life in order, and had planned to spend a day at the library studying up for his GED and wanted to enroll in a local welding school to learn the trade in same week he was killed.

“My son was taken way too early and for a reason I want answers to,” said Lake’s father, Carl Morse.

Prosecutors have yet to formally charge Shannon and Gina Kepler - a couple who have nearly 50 years on the police force between them. Attorneys representing the couple called them “model” officers who were devoted to public service and the three daughters they adopted.

One of the daughters was Lisa Kepler, Lake’s girlfriend he had just met about a week earlier at a nearby homeless center. She told a local newspaper her parents had dropped her off there after they kicked her out of their home.

Lisa Kepler, who told the Tulsa World after Lake’s death that she hoped her parents “rot in prison,” didn’t attend Wednesday’s service. Morse said family members haven’t been able to find her and say her cell phone number no longer works. Attempts by the AP to contact Lisa Kepler this week were unsuccessful.

Many mourners who attended the service wore blue ribbons on their lapels; some painted fingernails blue and even dyed hair that color because it was Lake’s favorite.

Rev. Max Campbell told the congregants in his sermon that Lake was helping clean up the church just a few days before he was killed.

“I prayed for the man who done it,” Campbell said. “If you only pray for the people you like, you’ve got a problem.

“Jesus said pray for your enemies. That’s why we’re here today,” he said

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AP news researcher Barbara Sambriski in New York contributed to this report.

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