INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Before a group of young people and adults in the cafeteria at Arsenal Technical High School, a former federal convict admitted that it was a story on FOX59 News and the attention of IPD homicide detectives and U.S. Marshals that saved his life.
“Russ is good at his job. He be like, ‘This is Russ McQuaid, FOX59,’” Shane Shepherd told the audience, “but I say all the same, ‘I appreciate that,’ and it's odd to hear myself say that eleven years and eleven months and 27 days was the best time of my life...because without going to prison, I die.”
The audience was attending a Youth Summit sponsored by Mayor Hogsett’s Office of Violence Reduction.
Shepherd’s calling card is his admitted history as a dangerous gun-toting thug shooting and “sherming” and dealing on the streets of the northwest side at the most recent turn of the century.
(“Sherm” is a street term for formaldehyde dipped marijuana.)
“Back then nobody knew what we was doing was wrong because we were the beginning of it, you know, so we didn’t have nobody to say, ‘Y’all gonna go to jail, y’all gonna start killing each other or your father’s gonna end up in prison.’ We knew none of that so what we was doing was just kind of raising each other. How can one 17-year-old tell another 17-year-old what’s right and what’s wrong?”
In the spring of 2004, Indianapolis homicide detectives were confident they had linked Shepherd and his associates to a drug and retaliation war that had claimed seven lives, the first being Shepherd’s pregnant cousin.
In mid-May of that year, FOX59’s “Indy’s Most Wanted” told Shepherd’s story, as related by detectives, to the dismay of the man who was known on the streets as “Shockey.”
“I was Indiana’s Most Wanted for thirty days in Indianapolis,” Shepherd told the summit attendees, “and he did it based on information he collected…cuz Russ took the blanket off me. Russ exposed the public to who the police say I was. They locked me up, I went to prison for 12 years.”
Shepherd was never tried or convicted in any of those cases, and denies his involvement, but the suspicions of detectives, based on eyewitness accounts, were enough for a federal judge to support U.S. Marshals, who arrested Shockey with a handgun the day before he was to flee Indianapolis less than a week after the story aired as even the wanted man’s own friends were turning on him.
While serving a sentence as an armed career criminal, inside a maximum federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, Shepherd met H. Rap Brown, a founder of the Black Panther Party, who was serving a life term of the killing of a Georgia sheriff's deputy.
“’You wastin’ your time and you wastin’ your life,’” Shepherd recalled being told by Brown. “’I’m gonna tell you this: You owe me cuz dudes like me sacrificed my life so you could have opportunities that you had and you’re sitting on this bus with me right now, with all that potential, I’m ashamed of you.’
“That made me cry,” said Shepherd, “to hear that coming from somebody like him.”
Shepherd said he turned his life around in 2009, halfway through his sentence, when he realized he was the cause of his own problems which had followed into prison.
It was a belief that was tested last fall when his sister was murdered on the west side and Shepherd said he chose not to retaliate and instead put his faith in a system that had chased him down 15 years ago.
Shepherd was released in 2016 and recently completed court ordered supervision.
“I want to see something tangible that somebody else can walk and see and say, ‘How did this come about?’ and my name is mentioned. ‘This dude was instrumental in bringing this about.’ And that’s it,” he said. “If I’m influential and I have any influence on the streets, why wouldn’t I want to use that influence now because I was so quick to use it back then?”
Shepherd founded B4Ufall: catching our youth, a not-for-profit, dedicated to mentoring Indianapolis young people at a time when the lives of approximately a dozen victims under the age of 20 have been claimed by violence in Marion County.
As he looks out into an audience of young people, as he did at this weekend’s Youth Summit, Shepherd said he sees himself twenty years ago in that crowd and that it took police and news investigations, which he insists were wrong, to bring Divine Intervention into his life.
“I’m not smart enough, Russ,” said Shepherd as he admitted that all that negative attention saved his life, “I’m not good enough to make it through what I made it through without it got to be something behind me saying, ‘Hey, man, I’m gonna look out for you but you owe me,’ and I think that’s God.”
“Was there a time back in the day when you threatened you wanted to have me killed?” I asked Shepherd, recalling a message communicated to me about the same time an anonymous threatening phone call was received at my home.
“Never, I wasn’t never that mad at you,” said Shepherd who admitted he thought about suing me for allegedly defaming his reputation. “I was never mad enough to think that you was the cause of my problems so I never ever thought like, ‘Somebody go kill Russ,’ and that’s my word as a man.”
In an ironic aside, before Shepherd’s address, raffle tickets were passed out for prizes including fast food restaurant gift cards.
“714,” I announced, holding the winning ticket in the air and receiving no response. “If nobody speaks up, I keep the prize.”
“Wait a minute,” called out Shepherd, shuffling through papers on the lunch table in front of him. “I think I got that.”
Sure enough, Shepherd possessed the matching raffle ticket for a winner I had literally pulled out of a hat.
Later I remarked on the karma of such a moment.
“I’m gonna talk about that,” laughed Shepherd. “I’m gonna go to the ‘hood and say, ‘Y’all not gonna believe that.’ I said, ‘I’m gonna win something,’ and then Russ McQuaid is the one that pulls the ticket out.
“I appreciate it, man.”
An investigator told FOX59 that there are still families in Indianapolis who hold Shepherd responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.
In Indiana, there is no statute of limitations on the charge of murder, or second chances.