Police Probe Possible Racial Motive in Tulsa Killings

Susan Candiotti, CNN, April 8, 2012

Police are investigating whether the shootings of five African-Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma, were a hate crime after the weekend arrests of two white suspects in the case, local authorities said Sunday.

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, are scheduled to be arraigned Monday morning. {snip}

{snip} Both suspects are charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill, police said.

“We’re going to explore any possible motives,” Police Chief Chuck Jordan told reporters Sunday afternoon. But he said the investigation was still going on, and Jim Finch, the head of the FBI’s Oklahoma office, said Sunday that it was “premature” to talk about hate crimes.

“We have yet to analyze all the information to understand the motivations of these subjects in this case,” Finch said.

England had written a racial slur on his Facebook page in a post marking the anniversary of his father’s 2010 killing. But the entry also noted his girlfriend’s recent suicide, and a man at England’s home told CNN, “You don’t know what this family’s been through.”

The shootings began about 1 a.m. Friday in predominantly black neighborhoods in north Tulsa. The first victim, 49-year-old Dannaer Fields, died at a hospital. Two others were shot just three minutes later, but survived and were released from the hospital Sunday, Jordan said.

Another person was shot and killed about 2 a.m., while the third victim was found around 8 a.m. next to a funeral home. {snip}

{snip} But he said investigators did not yet know which of the suspects may have fired the fatal shots.

Nor was the relationship between England and Watts clear Sunday. Evans said they were not related, describing them only as “associates.”

{snip}

Police reports listed the same address for England and Watts, a home in a rural area on the northern outskirts of Tulsa. An arriving couple who identified themselves only as England’s relatives said England’s father had been shot to death in April 2010, and England had been left to care for his 6-month-old child after his girlfriend shot and killed herself in front of him a few months ago.

“His mind couldn’t take it anymore, I guess,” the man who called himself England’s uncle told CNN, adding, “I guess it just snapped his mind.”

Earlier, others at the home hurled abuse at a CNN crew that approached the driveway.

One of England’s neighbors, 83-year-old Synita Bowers, said England “is a very nice young man, very well mannered.

“He would help me over here,” Bowers said. “When his dogs turn over my trash cans, he comes and cleans it up—very nice young man.”

But on England’s Facebook page, a friend warned him not to “do anything stupid” after a Friday night message that read “It just mite be the time to call it quits.”

“I hate to say it like that but I’m done if something does happen tonite be ready for another funeral later,” England wrote.

And on Thursday afternoon, he noted that it was the second anniversary of his father’s death “at the hands of a f***ing nigger.”

“It’s hard not to go off between that and sheran I’m gone in the head,” he wrote, referring to his girlfriend. {snip}

{snip}

[Editor’s Note: The New York Times says Mr. England is “a Native American who has also described himself as white.”]

Jake England and Alvin Watts

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