TULSA, Okla. — Two men were arrested Sunday in a shooting rampage that left three people dead and terrorized Tulsa’s black community, and police said one of the suspects may have been trying to avenge his father’s shooting two years ago by a black man.
Police identified both suspects as white, while all five victims in the rampage early Friday were black.
Police and the FBI said it is too soon to say whether the attacks in Tulsa’s predominantly black north side were racially motivated. Police spokesman Jason Willingham said that investigators are considering many possible motives but that based on messages posted on Facebook, revenge appeared to be a factor.
The FBI special agent in charge of Oklahoma says it’s too early, however, to talk about the shooting being hate crimes.
In a Thursday update on Facebook that appeared to have been written by 19-year-old Jake England, he angrily blamed his father’s death on a black man and used a racial slur. He 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 fiancie earlier this year, he wrote.
A family friend, Susan Sevenstar, told The Associated Press that England’s fiancee killed herself in January.
“It’s apparent from the posting on the Facebook page that he had an axe 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.
Acting on an anonymous tip and backed by a helicopter, police arrested England and Alvin Watts, 32, at a home just north of Tulsa around 2 a.m. The two men were roommates, and officers went to their home, then followed them several blocks to another home, where they were arrested without incident, police said.
Authorities said they planned to charge them with murder and other offenses.
Task force commander Maj. Walter Evans said that investigators recovered a weapon but that it was not clear who fired the shots.
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, said the arrests came as a big relief. Black community leaders had met on Friday night amid fear over the shootings and concerns about possible vigilantism in retaliation.
“The community once again can go about its business without fear of there being a shooter on the streets on today, on Easter morning,” Blakney said.
It was not immediately known if the suspects had lawyers.
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.
While police were reluctant to describe the shootings as racially motivated, City Councilman Jack Henderson said he believes that whoever committed the crimes was upset with black people.