Slain Tecumseh police officer Justin Terney, left, and Byron Shepard, the suspect in his death, right. Courtesy

When deputies from the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Office entered Pam Dodson’s residence, they knew who and what they were looking for.

About $500,000 dollars of equipment had been reported missing from Terrapin Energy Sources, an oil well servicing company out of Morris, a town about a 10-minute drive east of Okmulgee. Authorities suspected Byron Shepard, a former Terrapin employee with a long criminal history.

When deputies arrived at Dodson’s property, they noticed a 1992 red Chevrolet pickup with a bed full of what they believed was property stolen from Terrapin. Dodson told them the truck belonged to Shepard,
who had recently moved in. He had told her he was driving that 25-year-old pickup because the tag was out on his vehicle.

She let the deputies into the home, where they located items whose serial numbers matched up with equipment belonging to the well-servicing company. By the time they left, they had nearly recovered $200,000 of the stolen property.

About a week after deputies had entered Dodson’s residence, Shepard was charged with knowingly concealing stolen property.

It was at least the 12th time he was charged by Oklahoma authorities with a felony or misdemeanor since 2000. Yet he has always managed to avoid prison, records reviewed by The Frontier show.

Sometimes the cases were dismissed. Sometimes he was able to plead a felony down to a misdemeanor and receive a suspended or deferred sentence in place of prison time.

This time would be no different. Despite deputies knowing where Shepard lived and what he drove, court records show he was never arrested after that last charge was filed.

On Sunday, Shepard allegedly shot and killed a rookie Tecumseh police officer named Justin Terney after fleeing on foot from a traffic stop. It was the first death of an on-duty Tecumseh police officer in nearly 90 years, officials there said.

‘A passion for wanting to be an officer’

It was just before midnight on Sunday when Terney pulled Shepard over near Benson Park Road and South Gordon Cooper Drive, an intersection just south of Tecumseh’s town cemetery.
Tecumseh, a small Pottawatomie County town about five miles south of Shawnee, was named after a 19th-century Shawnee chief who was killed by American forces in 1813 in the Battle of the Thames.

Tecumseh police have said that Shepard exited his vehicle and fled. Terney gave chase, and may have struck Shepard with a Taser, though it apparently had no effect.

From there a shootout ensued. Terney was shot three times and died about nine hours later at a local hospital. Shepard was shot five times but has survived.

Terney was described by his coworkers as a dedicated police officer who chose a career in law enforcement early in life.

“Talking to his dad today, while they were in the family room during surgery, he said he (Terney) chose law enforcement from a really young age,” Terney’s friend, Dillion Degraffenreid, told The Oklahoman earlier this week. “He had always shown a passion for wanting to be an officer.”

Prior to becoming a police officer in Tecumseh, Terney worked as a jailer in the McIntosh County Jail, according to a social media post made by the sheriff’s office there.

An image from Justin Terney’s Facebook page.

Terney’s own Facebook page showed a love for the outdoors, dogs, and for police work. About three weeks before his death, Terney shared a post memorializing Craig County Sheriff’s Office deputy Sean Cookson, who died in February in an on-duty car crash.

The shooting will likely put an end to nearly two decades of alleged criminal acts by Shepard, who records show was first arrested in 2000 for selling a stolen handgun. Just 19 years old, and with only a 10th-grade education, Shepard eventually pleaded guilty and was given a five-year deferred sentence.

Records show Shepard’s life of crime began with that relatively small-scale infraction. A search of his name in the state’s On Demand Court Records database (ODCR) shows at least 36 traffic infractions, felonies and/or misdemeanors in the 17 years since his first brush with authorities.

And despite a seemingly escalating level of alleged crimes, Shepard only entered Oklahoma Department of Corrections custody once during that time, though he still avoided spending any time in a state prison.

In 2014 Shepard pleaded guilty to not paying child support. Court documents showed he owed more than $60,000 to the mother of his children. He was initially given a five-year deferred sentence, but was arrested again after falling behind on paying fines and costs. He eventually was given a four-year suspended prison sentence.

It’s unclear exactly how Shepard was able to stay out of an Oklahoma prison system that incarcerates people at a rate that outpaces most of the nation.

Most of his alleged crimes took place in Okfuskee County, a county approximately the same size as Oklahoma City, though he also received suspended sentences, or had cases dismissed in Garvin, Hughes, and McIntosh counties.

An image from a criminal case record against Byron Shepard.

Two of the cases against Shepard (both domestic violence allegations that were laid out in detail in arrest affidavits,) were dismissed after the alleged victim failed to appear in court.

One case ended in probation; two ended in suspended sentences, in which a judge allows a convict to be on probation, which can be revoked if involved in a subsequent crime.

Two more cases ended with Shepard serving a deferred sentence, which allows a convicted person to possibly have the case erased from their criminal record if they meet certain conditions.

Of the seven Okfuskee County cases in which Shepard saw his criminal case resolved through dismissal, suspended sentence, probation or deferred sentence, four involved assistant district attorney Maxey Reilly. District Attorney Max Cook was involved in the other case, a protective order violation.

Six of those cases were at least initially heard in front of Associate District Judge David N. Martin.

Violent incidents dot Shepard’s rap sheet
Shepard’s rap sheet also includes numerous acts of alleged violence.

In 2005 he was charged with domestic assault and battery after his girlfriend told police Shepard punched her in the stomach as she was holding her four-month old son.

The woman returned to Shepard’s residence days later to take some items with her when Shepard arrived enraged, she told authorities. Prosecutors alleged Shepard grabbed the keys from the ignition of the vehicle the woman was in and threw them in the weeds so she couldn’t leave. He then tried to drag her through the window of the pickup, the woman said.

Shepard entered into domestic violence awareness classes, though he only attended two of the required three sessions. However, court records show the teacher reported that Shepard “accepted responsibility” for what he had done and showed “victim empathy.”

That charge was eventually dropped after the woman failed to appear at court hearings.

Two years later Shepard was arrested again. This time he had a loaded .22 caliber pistol, methamphetamines, and an open bottle of “low point Bud beer,” court records show.

Once again he pleaded guilty and was given a sentence of no prison time, instead receiving a five-year deferred sentence.

Before that conviction was handed down, Shepard was arrested again — this time for pointing a shotgun at a man, woman, and their three children during a dispute. Shepard at first told police the shotgun was unloaded, but eventually admitted it had been loaded during the dispute. He had unloaded it before police arrived, he said.

Shepard eventually pleaded that case down to “reckless handling of a firearm,” a misdemeanor. He was again sentenced only to a term of probation.

His offenses continued to escalate. In 2009 he was charged with kidnapping — a felony — after his girlfriend alleged Shepard had forced her to the ground and held her there during a dispute.

Police also found marijuana and paraphernalia in the apartment. That case was dropped after the woman failed to appear to scheduled court hearings, and records show she and Shepard were married about six months after the incident.

Two years later Shepard was charged with beating a man with a metal baseball bat, a charge to which he pleaded guilty and again received a four-year suspended sentence.

A year later he was charged with threatening to “slice the throat” of the mother of his children, court records show. A witness told police that Shepard reached through the window of a vehicle the woman was in, grabbed a phone from her hands and destroyed it, then said he was going to “kill her and the baby,” and that she “was a dead bitch.”

He once again pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a short probation term. On the probation paperwork Shepard signed, under a section intended to list contacts probation officers can call in case the offender doesn’t report to his probation officer, Shepard listed the victim from the crime for which he had just been sentenced.

That woman later was granted a protective order against Shepard, which he later was charged with violating.

Less than a week later, he was charged with driving under suspension and escaping arrest. While out on bond for that alleged crime, he was charged with the oilfield equipment theft.