Jake England, left, and Alvin Watts. (Photo: AP Photo/Tulsa Police Department via Tulsa World)
Authorities in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have charged Alvin Watts, 32, and Jake England, 19, with three counts of first-degree murder for a shooting rampage that left three Black men dead and two others wounded last week.
In their first appearance in court Monday, Watts and England were also charged with two counts of shooting with the intent to kill and one count of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. A judge set their bond at more than $10 million each.
Although police said that they will not yet speculate on a motive for the crimes, it is possible that the shootings appear to be racially motivated. England and Watts are both white, and all the victims are Black. Before the shootings took place, one of the suspects posted a hateful message on his Facebook page, indicating he sought revenge for the death of his father.
"Today is two years that my dad has been gone, shot by a f-----g n----r. It's hard not to go off between that and Sheran. I'm gone in the head," England wrote on Facebook according to CBS. The message was removed by late Sunday.
The post referred to a string of tragic incidents for English, including his father’s shooting two years ago in which a Black man was arrested as a person of interest and the suicide of his fiancée in January.
England and Watts were arrested after a joint task force including the FBI launched an extensive manhunt dubbed “Operation Random Shooter.” The two were discovered hiding in a trailer in North Tulsa.
Yet despite the racial elements surrounding the case, police say they are not yet ready to label the shootings a hate crime.
"You could look at the facts of the case and certainly come up with what would appear to be a logical theory. But we're gonna to let the evidence take us where we want to go. There are motivations other than race in these kinds of incidents, and we're gonna look at it,” Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan told CBS news.
However, Tulsa City Councilman Jack Henderson spoke plainly about his thoughts on the shooters’ motives.
"Being an NAACP president for seven years, I think that somebody that committed these crimes [was] very upset with Black people," Henderson told CBS. "That person happened to be a white person, the people they happened to kill and shoot are Black people. That fits the bill for me."
The three killed were identified as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54 and William Allen, 31. Clark’s family reacted in shock to his death and told reporters that it seemed race was a factor in his shooting since he was loved by all.
"I just hope race wasn't a problem because we didn't know them and they didn't know us, but you can't help but think it was a race thing," Clark's brother Bruce told local media.
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