State Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, left. Slain Tecumseh Police Department Officer Justin Terney, top right. Byron James Shepard, bottom right. Courtesy

About a decade before Rep. Scott Biggs authored House Bill 1482 and began his attempt to undo drug reforms Oklahoma voters had overwhelmingly approved months earlier, he spent two years as a McIntosh County prosecutor.

One case that came his way during his stint as a prosecutor involved Byron James Shepard. Shepard, 35, remains hospitalized after authorities say he shot and killed rookie Tecumseh Police Department Officer Justin Terney, who also shot Shepard, on Sunday.

Dash cam footage of their encounter was released on Wednesday that shows Shepard, who had warrants out for his arrest, having a cordial conversation with Terney before sprinting away into a nearby wooded area.

Shepard was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder.

Related story: Before allegedly killing Tecumseh police officer, Byron Shepard had been charged with at least 12 crimes. But he had never spent a day in prison

The case in McIntosh County was filed in 2007 and Shepard was facing at least his fourth criminal charge since 2000 — this time for drugs, weapons, and alcohol.

It was arguably the most serious allegation to date against Shepard, then just 26 years old. He was arrested after Hanna Police Department officer Tim Turner reported finding methamphetamine, a loaded .22 caliber pistol, and an open container of “low point Bud beer” in the pickup Shepard was driving.

Despite Shepard’s prior criminal history — which included a conviction for selling stolen property and a domestic violence charge dropped after the alleged victim refused to testify — Biggs offered Shepard a plea deal and a deferred sentence, records show.

In retrospect it was a perhaps curious offer from Biggs, who was out of the state Wednesday, according to his legislative staff, and was not available for comment.

Biggs, R-Chickasha, now chairs the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee and has sponsored House Bill 1482, which seeks to turn drug offenses back into felonies. A state question voters approved last November will turn possession of drugs for personal use into misdemeanors when it goes into effect in July.

Nevertheless, Shepard took the deal Biggs offered him, which gave Shepard an opportunity to stay out of prison if he could stay out of trouble for five years. That proved too tough a proposition for Shepard, who has been charged with at least eight crimes since.

Image from McIntosh County court record.

However Oklahoma Department of Corrections records show he never went to prison, and the McIntosh County case offers a glimpse at the lengths the criminal justice system went to keep Shepard from prison.

Despite delays, past, Shepard finds leniency in court
It was four months after the arrest before Biggs began working on Shepard’s case. Online court records first mention Biggs on Sept. 5, 2007 and in those intervening months Shepard had likely tested the patience of the McIntosh County District Attorney’s Office.

Records show Shepard did not appear in his first court appearance since being released from jail, which resulted in a bench warrant being issued for his arrest. A month later Shepard returned to court. This time, records show he told the court he was indigent and could not afford an attorney, and the hearing was reset for the following month.

Again, Shepard arrived in court without an attorney.

Special District Judge William Layden gave Shepard two weeks to hire an attorney. (Layden later found trouble himself, after being indicted by a grand jury for allegedly attempting to impede an investigation into missing drug court money.)

Records show it was more than two months until an attorney, Michael Sherrod, appeared on Shepard’s behalf.

During that timeframe, Shepard caught another weapons charge, this time in Hughes County for pointing a loaded shotgun at a man, woman, and three juveniles. Shepard eventually pleaded that charge down to a misdemeanor. His sentence: A $200 fine plus court costs.

Despite the delays, Shepard’s prior crimes, and the new firearms charge, Biggs offered Shepard a pretty plum deal. If he pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamines and a loaded pistol, and stayed out of trouble for five years, he’d avoid prison.

“I was in possession of methamphetamines in McIntosh County. I also had an empty can of beer & a loaded gun in my vehicle while I was speeding and driving under suspension in McIntosh County,” Byron James Shepard wrote in his plea agreement for a 2007 drug and firearms charge.

That ultimately proved too difficult for Shepard, arrested two years later in Garvin County and charged with kidnapping. He allegedly choked and punched his girlfriend and barred her from leaving her apartment. Shepard was arrested again in 2011 for beating a man with a baseball bat.

The kidnapping charge was dropped when the woman Shepard was accused of kidnapping wouldn’t testify, records show.

It’s unclear why the 2011 assault charge only resulted in another suspended sentence. He submitted an Alford plea, where a defendant pleads his innocence but admits prosecutors have enough evidence for a conviction and allows a judge to impose a sentence.

HB 1482
Voters approved two state questions last November to turn some criminal offenses, such as drug possession, into misdemeanors rather than felonies. The changes don’t even go into effect until July, yet assaults on the reforms have been fierce.

Sen. Ralph Shortey proposed the first change, turning possession of all drugs (other than marijuana) back into a felony. Shortey said he believed voters who approved SQ 780 in November didn’t understand what they were voting for, a statement met with widespread disapproval.

Shortey eventually pulled the bill, and he later left the capitol in disgrace after being arrested for allegedly paying a teenage boy for sexual favors.

Related story: Under proposed drug reform, much of Tulsa becomes a felony zone

Image courtesy of Code For Tulsa

After Shortey pulled his bill, Biggs authored HB 1482. That bill would institute “proximity modifiers,” so that drug possession within 1,000 feet of a church, school, park, or daycare, would be a felony rather than a misdemeanor.

Biggs’ legislative page touts a press release where calling “HB 1482 – Protecting Children from Drugs and the Public from Deception.”

“After hearing from my constituents after the election, I believe there is a large group of voters that didn’t understand that this state question would essentially decriminalize drugs in schools, parks and playgrounds,” Biggs told Oklahoma City television station KFOR.

“I’m all for cleaning up our books to have a more efficient justice system but not at the expense of our children.”

Biggs’ bill passed through the Oklahoma House with a 51-38 vote, but has yet to go before the Senate. It would need a majority to vote in favor there before heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk for final approval.

‘So nice and very professional’
Terney, only 22 when he was killed Sunday following a traffic stop, had wanted to be in law enforcement since he was young, his friends have said. Prior to joining the Tecumseh Police Department, Terney was a jailer at the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Office.

His memorial services are set for 2 p.m. Friday in Canadian, a town with only a few hundred residents about 20 miles north of McAlester.

In the days after Terney died, Oklahoma City television station KOCO asked on its Facebook page for comments from Oklahomans who knew the deceased officer.

In an image shared on Facebook, Tecumseh Police Department Officer Justin Terney plays basketball with three small children. Courtesy

One woman shared pictures of Terney, dressed in his black police uniform, playing basketball with a group of young children. Others described Terney as personable and professional in his short time in Tecumseh.

“This officer was so nice and very professional. So young and young at heart,” a woman named Melissa Santino posted.

“He pulled me over not long ago for not completely stopping at stop sign. Gave me a warning and asked me to be more careful and he talked to my little nieces who were with me (and) gave them some stickers. Prayers for his family!”

Gov. Mary Fallin and Sen. James Lankford also commented on Terney’s death.

Meanwhile, Shepard remains hospitalized after being shot by Terney. Shepard’s girlfriend, Brooklyn Williams, was jailed Wednesday for allegedly “harboring” Shepard, who had outstanding warrants for his arrest prior to the Terney shooting.