TULSA (AP) — Two men accused in a shooting rampage in Tulsa are headed to court in a case closely watched by some residents who say it has highlighted the city's racial divisions.
Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, face murder and hate crimes charges stemming from the Easter weekend shootings that killed William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields as they were walking near their homes. Their preliminary hearing, during which a judge will decide if prosecutors have enough evidence to proceed to trial, is scheduled for Wednesday.
The shootings happened in a predominantly black section of the city and all of the victims were black. Watts is white and England identifies himself as Cherokee Indian. Authorities believe England may have targeted black people because he wanted to avenge his father's shooting death by a black man two years ago.
Some residents of the north Tulsa neighborhood where the shootings happened expressed doubts that justice will be served and said the racial disparities in this city of 391,000 people can be seen just in how much attention the case has garnered.
“If it was two blacks who killed three whites, they would have brought the rafters down on them,” said north Tulsa resident James McClellan, who lives close to where one of the killings occurred. “My granddaddy always told me there were two types of justice: white justice and black justice.”
David Green, another resident of the neighborhood, said if two black people were facing a trial for randomly gunning down three white people, “we'd still be hearing about it.”
“Now, it's all hush-hush,” Green said. “That's just the way it is.”
Prosecutors plan to call about a dozen witnesses during the preliminary hearing and urged skeptics to follow the case.
“There's no question in our minds we're going to do everything in our power to see that justice is served,” said First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond.
He said prosecutors will wait until after the preliminary hearing to decide whether to seek the death penalty.
Shortly before the Easter weekend shooting rampage, England apparently wrote a Facebook post saying that it was the second anniversary of his father's death, using a racial slur and lamenting that “it's hard not to go off.” From his jail cell, England has said he had no ill-will toward black people.