Sun, Apr 8, 2012
Police said special operations officers and other agents arrested two white men early Sunday, saying they were suspects in recent shootings that left three people dead and two critically wounded, all black, in the Tulsa area.
Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham said the two men were arrested at a hone just north of Tulsa at 1:47 a.m. Sunday and they were expected to face three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.
He said police acted on an anonymous tip and went to one location and followed the suspects after they had traveled about a half mile on foot to another place where they were apprehended. He declined to characterize that as a pursuit.
“There obviously still is a lot of investigation” ahead, Willingham told The Associated Press by telephone. “We don’t’ have a motive at this time. We are still asking questions and hopefully that will become clear in coming days.”
Willingham identified the men in custody as 19-year-old Jake England and 32-year-old Alvin Watts, both white, but gave no hometowns for them. He said the two men were taken early Sunday for questioning at a downtown Tulsa police station and would be booked and then jailed.
It was not known if either man arrested had obtained an attorney early Sunday.
Willingham said the arrests followed a crimestoppers tip on Saturday but he declined to specify what that information was. Willingham said he did not have any immediate details when asked if the men were armed when they were arrested. But he said authorities had begun honing in on the men Saturday evening.
“We’ve been on them since early in the evening (of Saturday). We had been doing surveillance and using a helicopter,” he told AP.
Willingham said a special operations team and other law enforcement agents were key in making the arrests. He says police used surveillance and other techniques and a helicopter in the course of apprehending the men.
Asked if the two men were armed when they were taken into custody, the police spokesman said he had no immediate information.
Police had said previously that they were searching for a white man driving a white pickup, which was spotted in the area of three of the shootings early Friday. At least two dozen officers were called to investigate the case, along with the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. The arrests came hours after authorities created Operation Random Shooter, a task force of various law enforcement agencies at various levels of government that have been working together on the case.
The shootings had placed Tulsa’s black community on edge over the weekend after the series of shootings early Friday morning. The shootings left many alarmed and worried in the north Tulsa area.
Authorities had said they thought the shootings by an attacker or attackers were linked because they happened around the same time within a three-mile span and all five victims were out walking when they were shot.
Willingham said authorities still faced many unanswered questions after the arrests.
Police, in their initial statement announcing the arrests via email, did not discuss any issues of race even as authorities signaled many questions remained and the investigation is still very active.
“We are going to turn over every rock,” he said of the work of the task force and local police.
Police had said previously that they didn’t believe the victims knew one another and they were trying to determine the circumstances behind the killings. Black community leaders met Friday evening in an effort to calm worries about the shootings, which had alarmed the predominantly black north Tulsa area.
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, had contacted police to emphasize the need for all to work together to avoid vigilantism. Blakney also had spoken of “avid distrust” between the African-American community and the police department and he also raised concerns that the shootings be fully investigated.