Tulsa shootings accused face multiple murder charges

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tulsa skyline, from file.

A duo accused of being behind a series of shootings of blacks in Tulsa, Oklahoma have been charged with three counts of murder and two of shooting with intent to kill. The white men also face five malicious harassment charges alleging the victims were targeted based on their race.

Police say Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, confessed to the attacks. An affidavit says England shot three of the victims and Watts pulled the trigger on the other two. The apparently random attacks killed Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. David Hall, 46, and Deon Tucker, 44, were hospitalised but survived and were discharged.

All were shot within three miles of each other on April 6 in a predominantly black area of the city; all but one were shot within a single mile of each other. The deceased were all hit in the chest. Hall was hit in the stomach and Tucker in the shoulder. Bond for each suspect has already been set at over $9 million, and no pleas have been entered. A witness to one shooting described a pickup pulling over so occupants could seek directions before someone inside fired a gun.

A two-day manhunt concluded with the arrests last Sunday and police say the killing of England's father Carl by black man Pernell Demond Jefferson gave the younger suspect a possible "axe to grind". Jefferson was threatened by the elder England following an earlier incident and no charges were filed on the basis Jefferson acted in self defense.

Jake England recently wrote in Facebook "it's hard not to go off," which was in reference to the second year since his father's death. Court documents say prior anonymous tips to police said England "has mentioned he will die in a shootout with the police if he has to" and harbors racist views. Friends and relatives say his father's death and girlfriend's suicide earlier this year have affected his mindset.

Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond called the events "a tragic and senseless crime." Oklahoma law allows for life or death sentences for murder. The malicious harassment charges, which apply to some forms of discrimination, can fetch a year in prison each. Defense lawyer Clark Brewster yesterday called it "a misplaced premise that [England] was motivated by any racial hate."

The accused, who are roommates and self-employed workmen, will be arraigned after the weekend. They apparently did not know anyone they are accused of shooting.