Two men were arrested in a shooting rampage that left three people dead and terrorized Tulsa’s black community, and police said one suspect may have been trying to avenge his father’s shooting two years ago by a black man.
Police on Sunday identified both suspects as white, while all five victims in the rampage early on Friday were black.
Police and the FBI said it was too soon to say whether the attacks in Tulsa’s predominantly black north side were racially motivated. Police spokesman Jason Willingham said that investigators are considering many possible motives, but based on Facebook postings, revenge appeared to be a factor.
In an update on Facebook on Thursday last week that appeared to have been written by 19-year-old Jake England, he angrily blamed his father’s death on a black man and used a racial slur. He said Thursday was the second anniversary of his father’s death.
“It’s hard not to go off,” given the anniversary and the death of his fiance earlier this year, the posting said.
“It’s apparent from the posting on the Facebook page that he had an axe to grind, and that was possibly part of the motive,” Willingham said. “If you read the Facebook post and see what he’s accused of doing, you can see there’s link between the two of them.”
The Facebook page had been taken down by Sunday afternoon.
A family friend, Susan Sevenstar, said that England was “a good kid” and “a good, hard worker,” who “was not in his right mind” after losing his father and the January suicide of his fiance, with whom he’d recently had a baby.
“If anybody is trying to say this is a racial situation, they’ve got things confused,” said Sevenstar, who described England as a Cherokee. “He didn’t care what your color was. It wasn’t a racist thing.”
The Tulsa World reported that England’s father, Carl, was shot in the chest during a scuffle with a man who had tried to break into his daughter’s apartment. Carl England later died.
The man charged in the shooting is serving a six-year sentence on a weapons charge, according Oklahoma Department of Corrections records.
Acting on an anonymous tip and backed by a helicopter, police arrested Jake England and Alvin Watts, 32, at about 2am on Sunday at a home in Turley, just north of Tulsa. The two men were roommates and officers went to their home, then followed them several blocks to another home, where they were arrested without incident, police said.
Authorities said they planned to charge them with murder and other offenses. Task force commander Major Walter Evans said that investigators recovered a weapon, but that it was not clear who fired the shots. They also found a truck that had been burned.
Police previously said they were looking for a man in a white truck.
The Reverend Warren Blakney Sr, president of the Tulsa National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the arrests came as a big relief. Black community leaders had met on Friday night amid fear over the shootings and concerns about possible vigilantism in retaliation.
“The community once again can go about its business without fear of there being a shooter on the streets on today, on Easter morning,” Blakney said.
It was not immediately known if the suspects had lawyers.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said the gunmen appeared to have chosen their victims at random. Police identified those killed as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. Two men were wounded, but were released from the hospital, Jordan said.