OKLAHOMA CITY, April 8 — Police acting on a tip arrested two white men today for a shooting spree in Tulsa that left three dead, two wounded, and rattled the predominantly black neighbourhood.
Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham said police were not prepared to label the shootings racially motivated hate crimes after the arrest of Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, on murder charges just before 2am (0600 GMT) today.
“At this point we don’t have a motive,” Willingham said. “Obviously there’s still a lot of investigation to do. Hopefully in the coming days we’ll be more clear on what exactly the reason was.”
In response to a tip, police put the suspects under surveillance and they were arrested at a home north of Tulsa, Willingham said. England and Watts were charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill, police said.
The shootings early on Friday set the predominantly black north side of Tulsa on edge after a victim told police the gunman was a white man in a pickup truck who stopped and asked for directions before opening fire.
FBI and US marshals joined the manhunt, swelling the taskforce to 30 officers, Willingham said.
“It’s been a long 48 hours but we’re glad we were able to get them into custody. It’s been an all hands on deck type situation to get these guys in custody,” he said.
The shootings took place about 1am on Friday and within a 1.5-km radius in the predominantly black neighbourhood of North Tulsa, police said.
One body was found a short distance away, outside a funeral home, but police believe that victim might have been killed at the same time as the others.
Although all five of the victims were black, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said yesterday it was too early to know whether the shootings were racially motivated.
“The whole race issue, the hate crime issue, there’s a very logical theory that would say that’s what it could be, but I’m a police officer. I’ve got to go by the evidence,” Jordan said, adding that no racial slurs had been used by the gunman.
Among the dead was one woman, identified as Dannaer Fields, 49, and two men, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. The two wounded men, who were not identified, were expected to survive.
Tulsa City Councilman Jack Henderson, who represents the district in which the shootings took place, said witnesses told police the suspect drove through the neighbourhood, stopping several people on the street and asking for directions.
The pedestrians spoke briefly with the man but began walking away after they could not help him with directions, Henderson said. The driver then shot at them, killing one, and sped away, he said.
A witness told police he or she was sitting in front of a house when a man pulled up in a white Chevrolet pickup truck with rust spots on the hood and asked for directions.
After a brief exchange, the suspect produced a handgun and fired, striking two people before driving off, police said. — Reuters