The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 13, 2012

Murder, hate crime charges in Tulsa shootings

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma prosecutors filed murder and hate crime charges Friday against two men arrested in an Easter weekend shooting spree that left three people dead and terrorized Tulsa’s black community.

Jake England, 19, and his roommate, Alvin Watts, 33, each are charged with three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and five counts of malicious harassment. The harassment counts allege the victims were targeted because of their race.

Police say the men, who were arrested early Sunday after a two-day manhunt, appeared to have chosen five victims at random. Three died and two others were wounded. Under state law, first-degree murder is punishable by death or life in prison. Prosecutors said decisions about whether to seek the death penalty are usually made after a preliminary hearing.

“Filing charges is the first step to obtain justice for the victims and their families,” said Doug Drummond, Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney. “This is a tragic and senseless crime. Our office is committed to holding those responsible accountable for their actions.”

Court documents say both men confessed, England to shooting three people and Watts to shooting two. All the victims were black and police have said one motive might have been England’s desire to avenge his father’s fatal shooting by a black man two years ago. Documents do not list an attorney for either man, who a judge ruled Friday will be held without bond. They will be arraigned on the charges Monday.

A probable cause affidavit filed with the charges said anonymous callers to a police department hotline before the men were arrested claimed England was a racist who hated black men and that he “has mentioned he will die in a shoot out with the police if he has to.”

England’s family and friends have said the death of his father and his girlfriend’s January suicide sent the younger England into a downward spiral — he apparently wrote a Facebook post marking the second anniversary of his father’s death and lamented that “it’s hard not to go off.”

England’s father, Carl, was fatally shot in 2010 by a black man who had threatened Carl England’s daughter. After tracking down Pernell Jefferson, the men fought and Carl England was fatally shot. Jefferson was not charged with homicide because an investigation determined he acted in self-defense.

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