U.S. Attorney Trent Shores Leaves the Department of Justice after 18 Years of Service to the Nation
(STL.News) marks Trent Shores’ final day of service as United States Attorney. His resignation brings to a close nearly 18 years of federal law enforcement experience. He served the mission of justice under four Presidents and seven United States Attorneys General.
“Serving as United States Attorney has been the privilege of a lifetime. I am humbled to have had the opportunity to contribute to improving public safety in Northern Oklahoma, a community where I grew up and where I have chosen to raise my family. The attorneys and staff of this U.S. Attorney’s Office approach their jobs daily with unparalleled integrity and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law. I’ll sleep well knowing they’re on the job,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.
Following confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Shores was sworn in as United States Attorney on Sept. 22, 2017. He served as the chief federal law enforcement officer for all federal criminal prosecutions and civil litigation in the Northern District of Oklahoma. The district is home to more than 1 million people and covers eleven counties, including thirteen federally recognized Indian tribes. He started his tenure as U.S. Attorney in an office of 47 total attorneys and support staff, and within the next four years, grew the office to more than 100 personnel to meet the substantially increased caseload following a landmark Supreme Court decision. In his dozens of hiring decisions, Shores demonstrated his commitment to building a work force that looks like America, constructing the best qualified, most diverse staff the office has ever had.
“Over the last four years, U.S. Attorney Shores has conducted a master class for leadership. He has proactively sought input and listened to the concerns and ideas of all staff, agency partners and stakeholders,” said Civil Division Chief Cathy McClanahan. “Never one to take a day off, his one aim has always been providing the best service to the people of the Northern District of Oklahoma. All of those who work with Trent understand his great love of justice, as demonstrated by the fact that he has spent half of his life serving in the Department of Justice. On behalf of the Civil Division, I extend deepest appreciation to Trent for all that he has done for this Division, the entire office and the people of Oklahoma.”
“Law enforcement and our team had the privilege of having Trent lead the Northern District of Oklahoma during times of nationwide unrest, a pandemic and a game changing decision by the Supreme Court in the McGirt case. During his tenure, the U.S. Attorney’s Office doubled in size and more than doubled its case load,” said Criminal Division Chief Allen Litchfield. “It takes a natural born leader to excel in times of great adversity. Trent is that kind of leader. He brought an unwavering sense of commitment to the mission of justice for victims and the citizens he served. His dedication to the Office of the U.S. Attorney and his efforts to ensure justice for all, sets the standard for us all to follow.”
Shores was appointed to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, by both Attorneys General Jeff Sessions and William Barr, providing counsel on key policy and operational matters for the Justice Department. He further served on the Attorney General’s domestic violence working group, aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, using the tools of federal prosecution help prevent domestic violence.
Shores also was named Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Subcommittee on Native American Issues (NAIS), a group of United States Attorneys charged with the developing and guiding national policy for Indian Country justice. Known as an expert on Indian Country criminal law, Shores testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to discuss violent crime in Indian Country and of potential legislation to address the problem. He also testified before the United States Sentencing Commission regarding the impact of federal sentencing guidelines on Native Americans in the criminal justice system.
Shores and his NAIS colleagues were instrumental in shaping Attorney General Barr’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Initiative, launched in November 2019. The initiative, in part, placed MMIP coordinators in U.S. Attorney’s offices in 11 states, including Oklahoma, who were charged with developing protocols for a more coordinated law enforcement response to missing cases.
Shores also hired Patti Buhl, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to serve as the MMIP Coordinator. Shores and Buhl would soon team up with the leaders of the Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations to launch the MMIP Tribal Community Response Plan Pilot Project in Oklahoma, the first of six states to launch the project. The goal of the pilot is to establish a collaborative response from tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and other partners by implementing culturally appropriate draft guidelines when investigating emergent cases of missing and murdered American Indians. Lessons learned will be used to improve the draft guides for developing response plans before they are used across the nation.
Seeking to highlight Tribes in Oklahoma, Shores coordinated a 3-day NAIS meeting and a visit from Attorney General Barr. In 2018, Shores hosted 38 U.S. Attorneys, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, and countless officials from other agencies and tribes from across the country for the NAIS meeting. In 2020, Shores joined with Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to welcome Attorney General Barr to the Cherokee Nation. Attorney General Barr and Shores met with Cherokee leadership, council members, and marshals to discuss public safety priorities.
Forward leaning and mission oriented, Shores led with intensity and vision. In July 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court found, in McGirt v. Oklahoma, that land historically reserved for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation remained Indian Country so that the Northern District of Oklahoma holds a reservation, including most of Tulsa. Overnight, criminal jurisdiction of thousands of cases involving Native Americans shifted from state courts to federal or tribal courts. Shores and his leadership team proactively advocated for resources and personnel in order to implement the Court’s decision. They called on federal prosecutors and support staff from across the nation for assistance, and 17 volunteers came to Tulsa to assist In early 2021, the leadership team also hired 13 additional Criminal Division Assistant U.S. Attorneys and support staff, building capacity within the office. In the process, Shores strove to create a culture of professionalism, transparency, and teamwork as attorneys and support staff took on ever-increasing responsibilities. Shores and his team also prioritized collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, training officers on the unique legal considerations of Indian Country and helping to coordinate cross deputization agreements so officers were able to work crimes that occurred on the reservation involving Native American suspects or victims.
Like many Tulsans, Shores was profoundly affected when two Tulsa Police Officers were shot during a traffic stop in 2020. Tragically, Sergeant Craig Johnson lost his life as a result of wounds sustained in the incident. In response, Shores created and launched the 2150 Initiative in partnership with the Tulsa Police Department and ATF. The 2150 Initiative was named for Sgt. Johnson’s badge number as a way of honoring his legacy of service and duty to the citizens of Tulsa. The initiative aimed to remove illegal guns from the street and keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who are prohibited by law from possessing them.
In the last four years, federal prosecutors in the Criminal Division convicted 963 defendants and filed 1,335 cases, many of which are still ongoing in federal court. Under Shores’ leadership, violent crime prosecutions on average nearly doubled when compared to the three years prior, and violent crime rates declined. Shores frequently spoke about the devastating impact violent crime had on communities and its oppression on the opportunities afforded to residents. The U.S. Attorney’s Office prioritized public safety through targeted, impactful prosecutions. For example, through strong partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement, the team launched Operation Alpha in 2018. The operation used crime-mapping technology to focus on high volume areas of violent crime in Tulsa over a two-month period, arresting 174 repeat violent offenders, called Alpha criminals, and taking 106 illegal guns off the street. The office further focused on taking firearms out of the hands of individuals who illegally possessed guns, including felons and domestic violence perpetrators, through Project Guardian and the 2150 Initiative. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, prosecutors charged 75 individuals with firearms violations. Underscoring importance of these cases, the office prosecuted Jakob Garland, a felon who exchanged a firearm for heroin. The recipient of the firearm was a felon who gunned down two Tulsa Police officers in 2020.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also significantly increased child exploitation prosecutions under Shores’ leadership. He hired Assistant U.S. Attorneys Chris Nassar and Edward Snow to take on these prosecutions and protect child victims. In July 2019, they teamed up with the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, FBI and other law enforcement partners to conduct Operation Independence Day, netting 19 total child predators. Currently, federal prosecutors and 15 local, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies are conducting Operation Clean Sweep across the 11 counties in the Northern District of Oklahoma. So far, the operation has charged 18 alleged perpetrators of internet facilitated child exploitation crimes.
Shores also sought to build strong partnerships with law enforcement in the district, offering federal resources as needed. He encouraged every sheriff, chief, and marshal to reach out to him personally to share concerns or to partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Shores also offered support to assist law enforcement and social services agencies to apply for millions of dollars in Justice Department grants to pay for resources like crime gun intelligence centers, domestic violence programs, school safety programs and rape kit processing. It was not uncommon to find Shores in a rural county or small town meeting with local law enforcement or joining them to present to local students about the dangers of opioids.
Additionally, Shores expanded the Civil Division by hiring four new Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Over the last four years, the division filed or responded to 2,251 cases. The team’s defensive work saved taxpayers a total of $83,923,856 while affirmative civil enforcement actions totaled $4,593,167. Notably, the Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit worked to recover taxpayer dollars lost to fraud by holding accountable medical professionals who accepted illegal kickback payments in return for recommending and prescribing compounded drugs produced by OK Compounding.
Outside the office, Shores engaged with the broader Tulsa community as well as more rural parts of the district. He prioritized community engagement and frequently spoke to citizen groups and students. He championed the American justice system and sought to inspire confidence in the dedicated public officials and civil servants who worked within it- from judges to public defenders to prosecutors. He promoted transparency in law enforcement and created opportunity for dialogue with community organizers. Importantly, he worked with citizen leaders to provide bilingual information on Spanish television and radio, sharing vital education regarding human trafficking, drugs, and illegal arms. Building these connections allowed his office to do justice on behalf of all victims, regardless of race, gender, or immigration status. One public speaking highlight of Shores’ tenure was when he delivered the keynote remarks at the Memorial Day celebration at the Wake Island Memorial in Bristow, Creek County. Shores spoke about the military service of his grandfather, PFC Robert Shores of the U.S. Marine Corp, who fought valiantly defending the island in World War II and survived captivity as a POW for nearly four years. At the conclusion of his remarks, Shores presented to his father an American flag that, with the assistance of U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe, had been flown over the U.S. Capitol in honor of PFC Shores.
Shores started his career as the Deputy Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice in Washington, D.C. Later as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern and Northern Districts of Oklahoma, he prosecuted human trafficking and child exploitation crimes, international organized crime, and white-collar crimes and public corruption. He also served as the National Security Cyber Specialist, working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force to address cyber-based threats to our national security and attacks on critical infrastructure.
U.S. Attorney Shores leaves this week after nearly 18 years of service with the Department of Justice. His actions showed a concern for the safety, well-being, and rights of the entire community. By pursuing a mission of liberty and justice for all Oklahomans of all backgrounds, he built trust throughout the community with integrity and accountability to the rule of law.