The suspected murderers, Jacob England and Alvin Watts.
The recent killings in Tulsa have rekindled history’s painful memories
For the past couple of months, the nation has seen murders of Trayvon Martin in Florida; Kendrec McDade here in Pasadena; Anthony Dunn right here in Los Angeles; and Fred Martin killed in neighboring Inglewood with two others shot-at, and including his son whom he gave his life to save by jumping in front of the child. Now, three murders in one day in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and more that have not made much national news, but have amounted to more than just a brief wave of murders. All the murdered victims were Black. The murder of Fred Martin and the Tulsa murders are the only ones here that do not involve questionable police tactics and policies, although the Tulsa murders, suspicious lack of national attention do bring forth and continue the question of value of African American lives by many various police agencies nationwide and in America’s (outside of the Black community) mentality as a whole.
This news report also comes as well as agitated tensions between the African American, White and Hispanic communities have increased. Police in Pasadena claimed that the heightened level of alert raised by a dishonest Hispanic 911 caller, sent the responding officers into a situation where they believed that two men were armed (found to be not armed) as a singular and only excuse. Police claimed that responding officers thought that Kendrec McDade was reaching for a gun as he attempted to pull his pants up, and similar accounts have been heard too many times, throughout the nation, by the African American community.
In Tulsa, five shootings in the same day Apr. 6, resulted in three separate deaths in separate locations with two others injured in just a few hours.
Sgt. David Walker of the Tulsa P.D., said in broadcast statements that the victims, “were in the street and not really in their yards,” he said. “So I would think that people were walking up and down the street being targeted.” All victims were Black and the suspected killers were White.
Just after 1:00 a.m., Dannaer Fields, a 49 year-old woman was found dead. Two men were found wounded just two blocks away, and only three minutes later. They are expected to live. A second murder occurred at 1:50 a. m., where another man, 57 year-old Bobby Clark, was found fatally wounded. At around 8:30 that same morning, a third fatality happened where 31 year-old William Allen was found fatally shot in the chest, in front of a funeral home.
Tulsa police said that the nature of the murders happening in the street led them to believe that these were random shootings, yet one of the injured, who is still living was able to describe his attacker as a White man in a white pick-up. This victim is said to have actually spoken with his attacker, according to investigators. The names of the injured and sirviving victims have not yet been released at this time.
Unlike Sanford, Tulsa authorities immediately called in the FBI and U.S. Federal Marshals. Tulsa police were cautious to call this a hate crime as of yet, though Police Chief Chuck Jordan does not rule it out. Some 30 investigators were working the case in a joint task force assembled by authorities.
“I’m worried more about three of my citizens being murdered,” he said. “And if it takes us in the direction of a hate crime, that’s certainly where we’ll go, and we’ll prosecute them for that as well.”
The murders occurred on Tulsa’s North-side, which is predominately black, yet that and one statistic makes this case highly suspect as a hate crime. Tulsa had only eleven homicides this year prior to these incidents, and now it has three in one day, all of them Black, and with an eyewitness victim that positively identified the attacker as White.
Robbery, and most other-likely motives have been all but ruled out.
Sgt Walker said,” it’s daylight now, you can go about your business,” he said, “but at night, I would be aware of what’s going on.”
Tulsa City Councilman Jack Henderson, a Black man, spoke on the issue.
“This is Tulsa Oklahoma,” Henderson said in an open press conference. “You should have the ability to stand out on your porch any time, day or night, that you want to; to walk down your street any time, day or night, that you want to.”
After only two days, the Tulsa P.D. arrested two men as suspects in the shootings, and as a result of anonymous tips. Jacob England, 19 and Alvin Watts, 31, were arrested Apr.8 – and both are charged with three counts of first degree murder, and two counts of shooting with intent to kill. Both men are charged individually now with each count of each crime. Bond was set the next day in the amount of $9.16 million for each of the men.
Tulsa Police Capt. Jonathan Brooks said that if one of the men was the primary shooter and the other just accomplice, or if both were co- conspirators are questions that they (Tulsa P.D.) are,” trying to resolve right now.”
Motivations in the crimes point in the direction of a true hate crime as England’s father was killed by a Black man Apr 5, 2010, and covered locally in Tulsa. His fiancee also died in January. His father’s killer was convicted and is serving his time in prison.
Investigations originally conducted by The Wall Street Journal showed that England and Watts may have first met on Facebook where England posted hateful rants about his father’s murder, and used racial slurs in describing the father’s murderer.
A local pastor, Rev. Warren Blakney and Tulsa City Councilman Henderson told CNN:
“You have somebody White who has come into a community and taken shots at, and killing Black people”, said Henderson. “To me, that would indicate that we have some kind of a racial problem.”
“For a White male to come that deep into that area (North Tulsa) and to start indiscriminately shooting, that lends itself for many to believe that it probably was a hate crime,” said Rev. Blakney.
For those who may not recall, Tulsa was the site of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, where a bloodbath occured. Many differing accounts have been given over the years, but the basic occurences are consistent. The Greenwood business district of Tulsa was home to many prominent black businesses similar to the Watts of older days-only more grand, and referred to by many as the Black Wall Street. Black restaurants, cleaners, hotels, clothiers, theatres, repair shops and more maintained a self-contained economy that prospered better than many white communities and most of Tulsa during the pre-depression, and still segregated era. Tensions flared-up when illegitimate reports circulated around town that Dick Rowland, a 19 year-old Black man, accosted 17 year-old elevator operator Sarah Page, a White girl. In what is believed to be the plain and simple truth by most, the only contact came was when Rowland accidently stepped on Page’s foot, which subsequently knocked her off balance in the moving elevator in the Drexel Building in downtown Tulsa. One Tulsa Newspaper ran a headline that read,” Nab Negro for Atacking Girl in Elevator,” and that sparked more. Whites already jealous that Blacks owned a mostly self-sufficient community that ‘out-prospered’ most neighboring communities took this spark that lit the flame for one of the worst race riots in that era of history. On May 31, 1921, Whites armed with everything from clubs, to knives, to guns and fire, looted and burned all of the black businesses killing more than 300 people. More than 1200 buildings were burned as reported by the Red Cross.
Current Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said that he had campaigned on the promise that the citizens of Tulsa,” are all one,” and that divisions in the past needed to be thrown away.
“Obviously all the victims are African Americans,” he said. “If there are hate crimes involved here, we will pursue the fullest punishment possible with help from the federal authorities.”