The Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizenship office in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Photo: Muscogee Creek Nation Citizenship Office
Law | National

Muscogee Nation issues citizenship card to former police officer accused of murder

A landmark court ruling that confirmed the boundaries of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is already having an impact.

Shannon Kepler, a former police officer, is seeking to have a first-degree murder charge against him dismissed, The Tulsa World reported. He says the state of Oklahoma can't prosecute him because he is a tribal citizen and because the alleged crime occurred in Indian Country.

In an August 8 ruling, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said the boundaries of the tribe's reservation have never been "disestablished" by Congress. If the decision stands and if the 2014 death of Jeremy Lake indeed occurred on Indian lands, Kepler would have to be prosecuted in the federal or even tribal system.

Up until last week, Kepler, 57, has been repeatedly described in news reports as "White." He wasn't issued a tribal citizenship card until Thursday, The World reported.

That was after a jury failed to reach a verdict for the third time in his case. He is accused of shooting Lake, who was only 19 years old at the time of his death and who has been described in news reports as the boyfriend of his adopted daughter.

Kepler is due to go to trial for a fourth time on October 9, according to records in his case. His motion regarding his Indian status was filed on Friday, The World reported.

The 10th Circuit decision came in the case of Patrick Dwayne Murphy, a Muscogee citizen who is accused of murdering a fellow citizen. The state previously acknowledged that the 1999 incident occurred on an Indian allotment but asserted jurisdiction nonetheless.

The ruling frees Murphy from his conviction and death penalty sentence. But Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is expected to seek a stay of the decision, a prosecutor in Tulsa County told The World.

Kepler, who is being prosecuted in Tulsa County, was not on duty at the time of the August 5, 2014, incident. He was allowed to retire from the force in Tulsa after he was charged.

His wife, Gina Kepler, was facing charges but no case was prosecuted. She also worked for the police department in Tulsa and was reportedly placed on administrative leave.

Read More on the Story:
Shannon Kepler cites Creek Nation citizenship, 'Indian Country' ruling in asking for murder case to be tossed (The Tulsa World August 11, 2017)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Murphy v. Royal (August 8, 2017)

Related Stories:
Muscogee Nation welcomes decision affirming the boundaries of its reservation (August 9, 2017)
Muscogee Nation citizen wins reversal of death penalty conviction in Oklahoma (August 8, 2017)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on Supreme Court nominee (March 23, 2017)