TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Police have arrested two men in a shooting rampage that killed three people, terrorizing Tulsa's African-American community, and said one suspect might have been trying to avenge his father's shooting two years ago by a black man.
Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested about 2 a.m. Sunday at a home in Turley, just north of Tulsa. Police on Sunday identified both suspects as white, while all five victims in the early Friday were black.
Police and the FBI cautioned that it was too early to say whether the attacks in Tulsa's predominantly black north side were racially motivated. However, police spokesman Jason Willingham said that based on Facebook postings being attributed to England, it appeared that a wish to avenge the death of his father might have been a factor.
In a Facebook update Thursday that appeared to have been written by England, he angrily blamed his father's death on a black man and used a racial slur. The posting said Thursday was the second anniversary of England's father's death.
"It's hard not to go off," given the anniversary and the death of his fiancee earlier this year, the posting said.
"It's apparent from the posting on the Facebook page that he had an ax 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.
A family friend, Susan Sevenstar, told The Associated Press that England was "a good kid" and "a good, hard worker," who "was not in his right mind" after losing his father and the January suicide of his fiancee, with whom he'd recently had a baby.
"If anybody is trying to say this is a racial situation, they've got things confused," said Sevenstar, who described England as Cherokee Indian. "He didn't care what your color was. It wasn't a racist thing."
The Tulsa World reported that England's father, Carl, was shot in the chest during a scuffle with a man who had tried to break into his daughter's apartment. England later died.
The man charged in the shooting is serving a six-year sentence on a weapons charge, according to Department of Corrections records.
Acting on an anonymous tip and backed by a helicopter, police arrested England and Watts early Sunday morning at a home in Turley. 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. They also found a truck that had been burned.
Police previously said they were looking for a man in a white truck.
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, said the arrests came as a big relief. Black community leaders had met 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 whether 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.
The shootings come at a fraught moment for black Americans. In late February, an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla., raising questions about racial profiling and touching off protests across the nation.
While Tulsa police were reluctant to describe the shootings there as racially motivated, City Councilman Jack Henderson was not.
"Being an NAACP president for seven years, I think that somebody that committed these crimes were very upset with black people," Henderson said. "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."
Associated Press writers Rochelle Hines in Oklahoma City and Erica Hunzinger in Chicago contributed to this report.