POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A jury handed down a death sentence to the man it convicted of killing a Tecumseh police officer.
On Friday afternoon, after less than two hours of deliberation, the jury sentenced Byron Shepard to death as punishment for the 2017 murder of Officer Justin Terney.
The trial lasted three weeks, and the ending was a relief for a roomful of law enforcement members and Terney’s family.
The 22-year-old Tecumseh police officer was just a rookie when he was killed during a traffic stop.
In court, the state argued Shepard pulled out his gun, turned and shot Terney simply to avoid going to jail on the stolen property charge he was wanted for.
“Everybody has seen the dash cam. Everybody saw that night Justin was so professional, Justin did exactly what he was supposed to do… and to say he was executed… he was executed,” said Tonisha Rapp, Terney’s sister.
In closing statements, District Attorney Greg Mashburn reminded the jury of Shepard’s past violence against people, including women he had relationships with.
Mashburn described him as “a violent, aggressive, merciless cop killer.”
“Just the facts that were presented in this case, and the fact that the defendant was such a violent criminal, and there was just a 20-year-past with him,” Rapp said.
Meanwhile, Shepard’s attorneys asked the jury to show Shepard mercy.
Over the week,Shepard’s family and friends, including his mother and teenage daughter, took the stand to beg for his life. Some recounted alleged abuse by parents, and early drug use that contributed to who he is today.
In their closings, his attorneys tried to convince jurors Shepard is someone who cares for his sick or dying loved ones, and who is capable of redemption.
Just after the jury was sent out, Terney’s family and his family of fellow Tecumseh police officers said a prayer for him and for justice in front of the courthouse.
Those prayers were answered soon after the jury came back with the death sentence.
“Today we can go over and we can go to his grave and we can tell him, Justin, everything is okay,” Rapp said.
It was a long-awaited moment of closure for those who were close to the fallen officer.
“Don’t let the memory of Justin Terney die,” said Tecumseh Police Chief J.R. Kidney. “Remember that he was a young man doing what he loved and fighting for his community the night that he died.”