2 arrested in Tulsa shootings in black neighborhood

From Susan Candiotti, CNN  updated 10:49 AM EDT, Sun April 8, 2012

Tulsa, Oklahoma (CNN) — Authorities in Oklahoma arrested two people early Sunday in connection with a deadly spate of apparently random shootings in Tulsa that have had residents on edge.

About 30 representatives from four law enforcement agencies — the Tulsa police, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI — had been working around the clock looking for the person that authorities say killed three people and wounded two others in shooting attacks early Friday.

The police identified the arrested men as Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32. They were taken into custody from a home in Tulsa.

“We’re not exactly sure what their relationship is to another, whether they are friends or extended family members,” said Capt. Jonathan Brooks.

The men did not offer any resistance, he said.

The pair will be charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill, the department said.

Neither has made a public statement.

Both England and Watts are white. All the victims were African-American.

Detectives were interrogating the two men Sunday morning and did not yet know their motive.

“It took a lot of work, a lot of collaborations between several different agencies, and a lot of help from the community,” Brooks said about what led them to the men.

“We’re very pleased that this is coming to an end, at least this portion of this whole process, but we still have to remember that three of our fellow citizens were killed and their families, on Easter morning, are now having to deal with that,” Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett told CNN Sunday.

He said the arrests stemmed from a tip called in to the Crimestoppers network, which led to “some phone calls and some observation and several door-knocking opportunities.”

Bartlett said once the media spread the word that tips were needed, “the phone lines really lit up, and it helped tremendously.”

The news undoubtedly comes as a relief to residents, many of whom had changed their daily habits since the shooting.

Just blocks from where two of the shootings occurred in the predominantly black neighborhoods in north Tulsa, Philip Hargett moved his trash cans from the side of his home to the front so he would never have his back to the street.

“It’s going to be a couple of days for all of us to get over this,” Hargett told CNN affiliate KOKI in Tulsa on Saturday night.

His wife, Migdalia, said the shootings “scare the daylights out of me.”

Venecia Williams, a mother and a grandmother who lives in the area, said she was afraid because she just didn’t know what might happen next.

“That many shootings in one night?” she said. “That’s quite a concern.”

After the shooting, a survivor described the suspect as a white man, driving an “older” white pickup truck, said Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan.

Brooks, the police captain, said such a truck had been spotted at at least three of the shooting sites around the time of the attacks. It has been recovered.

Police now believe that both England and Watts were in the truck at the same time during the shootings, Brooks said. “It appeared to have been ditched,” he said.

The first shooting occurred at 1:03 a.m. Friday. That victim, 49-year-old Dannaer Fields, died at a hospital.

Three minutes later, two other people were shot, authorities said. One of them was “pretty close to the (gunman’s) vehicle and the other … a little further away,” said Brooks, the police captain. Those two were initially in critical condition but, by Saturday evening, were expected to survive, he said.

Then, just before 2 a.m., another person was shot and killed.

The body of a third person was found around 8 a.m. next to a funeral home in a more commercial district, though Brooks said police believe he was shot much earlier.

Police have not begun ballistics tests to determine whether the same gun was used in all the shootings.

George Riley, the funeral director at Jack’s Memory Chapel, said he was shocked that one of the shootings played out virtually on his doorstep.

“I consider it a war zone,” Riley, a Vietnam War veteran, told KOKI. “I don’t want to say it’s scary, but it can be scary.”

In addition to Fields, Jordan identified the other two victims as William Allen and Bobby Clark.

“It appears all the victims were out walking or in the yard,” Brooks said. “This (happened in) a residential neighborhood, predominantly single-family dwellings, except for the last victim.”

The Rev. Warren Blakney, a pastor at a city church and president of the NAACP’s Tulsa branch, said the shootings could well prove to be hate crimes given that they happened in a predominantly black neighborhood.

“For a white male to come that deep into that area and to start indiscriminately shooting, that lends itself for many to believe that it probably was a hate crime,” Blakney told CNN.

Brooks said one survivor recalled how “the suspect drives up to him, asks … for directions and shoots him for no reason.” There is no indication the shooter used a racial slur or said anything else that might indicate his motive, according to police.

Jordan stopped short of calling it a hate crime, saying “it’s just not time for us to say that.”

“Right now, I’m more worried about three of my citizens being murdered,” the chief said. “And if it takes us in a direction of a hate crime, that’s certainly where we’ll go and we’ll prosecute him for that as well.”

The possibility of a hate crime is “a big concern,” Bartlett said. “We don’t know if that did happen. I assume that we will, through the interrogation process, find out.”

The city pulled together in an effort to locate and apprehend the suspects, he said.

“This is one Tulsa,” he said, “and whatever hurts a part of the community affects the entirety of our community.”

As for the arrest, Brooks said the department wanted to publicize it as quickly as possible for a reason:

“We wanted to get the word out now so that when people woke up this Easter Sunday morning, they’ll know that Tulsa is a little bit safer place.”

By phoebe53 Posted in Crime

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