Echoes of the horrendous past of the 1921 race riots in Tulsa, Okla., were heard last week as two white men were arrested for randomly shooting Blacks in the Midwestern city.
However, this time instead of the senseless killing of nearly 100 Blacks by the white community, five Black men were shot and lost their lives.
Reports out of Tulsa indicate that Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, both white men, were arrested over the weekend and charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and one count of possession of a firearm while committing a felony.
Both men are being held on bond totaling $9 million. Appearing in court this week, the two men confessed to going to North Tulsa, a predominately Black area of town, and randomly shooting Black residents within a 3-mile radius. An anonymous tip about England and Watts’ whereabouts led to their arrests.
Black residents in Tulsa are breathing a sigh of relief at the news of the arrest of the two men. Tulsa has a population of less than 400,000, with a Black population of just over 15 percent. Residents have reportedly said they felt like prisoners in their own homes and that the area was being terrorized.
NAACP Tulsa Chapter President Dr. Warren Blakney said at a press conference he has faith that the police will bring hate crime charges.
“The African-American leadership of this city was saying, ‘Give the police a chance. We have confidence that they are going to solve this issue and you [Blacks], be quiet, settle down,’” Blakney said. “The community can once again go about its business without fear of there being a shooter on the streets.”
The random shootings led to a massive manhunt, with the involvement of the U.S Marshal Service and FBI.
“After we look at the facts, the law and the evidence, we will be making a formal filing decision,” Tulsa Country District Attorney Tim Harris said.
The suspects will be formally arraigned on April 16 after the charges are reviewed.
Sparking national outrage, especially in the midst of the Trayvon Martin case, the D.A. and the Tulsa Police Department are being criticized for not yet calling England and Watts’ acts a hate crime.
Evidence from England’s Facebook page reveals that he was looking for revenge stemming from the shooting death of his father by a Black man in 2009. A post there read: “Today is two years that my dad has been gone, shot by a f**** n*****. It’s hard not to go off–between that and Sheran, I’m gone in the head.”
Harris responded that it’s too early to say if race was a factor.
“Right now, I need to concentrate on the murders and the shooting with intent to kill,” said Harris. “Certainly we will look at all the facts and evidence and make the decision if the facts bear out; it’s preliminary to determine what the motivation was behind this.”
Tulsa Police Department Chief Chuck Jordan agreed and said at a press conference that even given the race of the victims and the suspects, everything has to be looked over.
“We’re going to let the evidence take us where we want to go,” Jordan said. “There are other motivations than race sometimes in these types of incidents, and we’re going to look at it all.”