Police Investigating Facebook Postings in Oklahoma Shootings

Monday, 09 Apr 2012 09:33 AM

 

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Police arrested two men suspected in a deadly shooting rampage that terrorized Tulsa's African-American community, and said online postings indicated one may have been trying to avenge his father's death.

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested early Sunday at a home in Turley, just north of Tulsa. Police identified both suspects as white, while all five victims in the early Friday shooting were black.

England and Watts, who have not been charged, are expected in court Monday.

Police and the FBI cautioned that it was too early to say whether the attacks in Tulsa's predominantly black north side were racially motivated. Police spokesman Jason Willingham said that based on Facebook postings attributed to England, a wish to avenge the death of his father might have been a factor.

In a Facebook update Thursday that appeared to have been written by England, he blamed his father's death on a black man and used a racial slur. The posting 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 fiancée earlier this year, the posting said.

"It's apparent from the posting on the Facebook page that he had an ax 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, told The Associated Press 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 Cherokee Indian. "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 to Department of Corrections records.

Acting on an anonymous tip and backed by a helicopter, police followed England and Watts from the home they shared in Turley and arrested them without incident, police said.

Authorities said they planned to charge them with murder and other offenses.

Task force commander Maj. Walter Evans said investigators recovered a weapon but that it was not clear who fired the shots. They also found a truck that had been burned.

It was not immediately known whether the suspects had lawyers.

The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, said the arrests came as a relief. Black community leaders met Friday night as fears mounted over the shootings — and the possibility of retaliatory attacks.

"The community once again can go about its business without fear of there being a shooter on the streets," Blakney said.

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.

The shootings come at a fraught moment for black Americans. In late February, an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., raising questions about racial profiling and touching off protests across the nation.

While Tulsa police were reluctant to describe the shootings there as racially motivated, City Councilman Jack Henderson was not.

"Being an NAACP president for seven years, I think that somebody that committed these crimes [was] very upset with black people," Henderson said. "That person happened to be a white person, the people they happened to kill and shoot are black people. That fits the bill for me."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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