Minorities, men make up most Oklahoma City homicides; firearms most common cause

BY BOB DOUCETTE AND NICK TANKERSLEY Published: January 1, 2011
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Browse the map of OKC homicides

Nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma City homicide victims are minorities, and the majority of all Oklahoma City homicides involved firearms, a crime data analysis from the past four years shows.

The Oklahoman collected information on Oklahoma City homicides from 2007 to 2010, looking at the race, age, gender and cause of death for homicide cases. The analysis also examined where and when all 266 homicides occurred, with a map showing most homicides occurring in an area east of the state Capitol, south of downtown and in sections of north Oklahoma City.

The analysis showed about 44 percent of homicides in that time frame had victims who were black, the single largest group of victims represented. Nearly 67 percent of the cases involved firearms. And three-quarters of the cases had male victims.

The average age of a homicide victim: 30.2 years.

A homicide is defined as any case where one person takes another person's life. This can include murder, manslaughter, accidental deaths and justifiable homicides.

Demographics of death

One area that stands out is the disproportionate number of minorities who are homicide victims.

While 44 percent of homicide victims in the time period studied were black, only 14.1 percent of Oklahoma City's population is black, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show.

Whites make up 67.7 percent of the city's population, census data show, but only 34.2 percent of homicides in the four-year span studied.

Hispanics, who make up 14.7 percent of Oklahoma City's population, accounted for 16.2 percent of the city's homicide victims.

Another finding: 76.3 percent of homicide victims are male, and 66.9 percent of all homicides were caused by gunshot wounds. The second-most common cause of homicides was stab wounds (12.4 percent).

Gangs, drugs a common theme

Although police records did not indicate whether drugs or gangs were involved, the root of most homicides is drug and gang activity, police and other experts said.

“A lot of the homicides you see are involved with a drug deal or gang life,” Oklahoma City police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said. “Anywhere you have a concentration of drug sales and gang life, you're going to see a higher homicide rate.”

Kyle Eastridge, a former Oklahoma City police homicide detective and now a private investigator, said drugs, gangs and greed fuel much of the violence in Oklahoma City's poorer neighborhoods, which also tend to have the most killings.

Turf wars turn to gunplay, and even if the intent is not to kill, it sometimes turns out that way, Eastridge said. And where there's one gang-related death, more are likely to follow.

“It's a never-ending cycle,” he said. “You'll have in the beginning of the year a killing, and then it goes back and forth.”

Gang rivalries and drugs deal gone bad illustrate one point Eastridge said is true of most murders: Risky behavior can lead to deadly results.

“The cold reality is there aren't many people who are killed who aren't trying to get killed,” he said. “Most people who are murdered work really hard at getting that way.”

Even being associated with gang members and people involved in drugs can take lives, he added.

View homicide map

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