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Two suspects confess in Oklahoma shootings, police say

Officials are investigating whether the killing of three people and the wounding of two others in Tulsa was racially motivated.

April 10, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • Dist. Atty. Tim Harris of Tulsa County, Okla., briefs reporters after a court appearance by Jake England and Alvin Watts. Police say the two confessed to a shooting rampage that left three dead in Tulsa's black community.
Dist. Atty. Tim Harris of Tulsa County, Okla., briefs reporters after a… (Matt Barnard, Tulsa World )

Two men arrested in connection with a shooting rampage that terrorized the black community in Tulsa, Okla., over the weekend have confessed, police said Monday, and officials continued to investigate whether the crimes were racially motivated.

Police arrest reports obtained by The Times say Alvin Watts, 32, confessed to shooting two people and Jake England, 19, confessed to shooting three. Three victims died and two were seriously wounded.

England's arrest report says he drove during the shootings early Friday and later led police to the weapon. Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham said officers seized the gun and a truck on Sunday.

All five victims were black, and police have described both suspects as white, although England has identified himself as Native American in the past.

One woman and two men were killed on Tulsa's predominantly black north side: Dannaer Fields, 49; Bobby Clark, 54; and William Allen, 31. Police identified the wounded as Deon Tucker, 44; and David Hall, 46.

According to Watts' arrest report, he shot "the ones in between the first and last." That would mean he shot two of the three people who died, the report says.

Police have said they believe there is a link between the shootings and the killing of England's father by a black man. On the two-year anniversary of his father's death last Thursday, England posted on Facebook: "I'm gone in the head. Today is two years that my dad has been gone." He used a racial slur to refer to his father's killer.

But Willingham said as far as he knew, the suspects did not discuss their motivation with police.

He said it appeared the two men were equal partners in crime, despite the difference in their ages.

"Each admitted to his own crime where there was a fatality," Willingham said.

He said the confessions were corroborated by other evidence, which he declined to discuss.

"What they said matches what our investigation showed," he said.

Earlier Monday, both suspects appeared in Tulsa County District Court via closed-circuit video. Their bail was set at nearly $9.2 million each, and their arraignment was postponed until April 16 to give prosecutors time to review the circumstances of the crimes.

England and Watts face three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single count of possession of a firearm while committing a felony, officials said.

The pair, who police said shared a house north of Tulsa in Turley, did not speak during the brief hearing before Special District Judge Bill Hiddle, court staff said.

They were being held in segregation at the jail, separate from each other, Tulsa County Sheriff's Sgt. Shannon Clark said.

Police arrested the two after receiving anonymous tips and mounting a hunt that involved local, state and federal agencies, including the FBI.

Although England's Facebook posts indicated he was distraught about the death of his father at the hands of a black man, it was still not clear late Monday whether the shootings were racially motivated, police said.

"It's up to the prosecutors, whether it be the D.A.'s office or the U.S. attorney's, what the charges will be," Willingham said. "I don't think we have enough information at this time to say it's a hate crime."

It was not clear whether the Tulsa district attorney would pursue state hate-crime charges, which are misdemeanors in Oklahoma.

"This is the highest priority of any cases in the Tulsa County district attorney's office, and we'll look at it, but we won't make a decision until we're sure we've vetted all the facts and evidence law enforcement has been able to uncover," Tulsa County Dist. Atty. Tim Harris said in a statement.

Thomas Scott Woodward, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, said his office also was still investigating the case.

The shooting of Carl England, 47, on April 5, 2010, was ruled justifiable homicide under the state's self-defense law.

The Tulsa World has reported that Carl England's daughter had called him for help after her boyfriend and Pernell Demond Jefferson got into a fight. Police told the World the boyfriend hit Jefferson with a baseball bat and Jefferson left to get a gun. When Carl England arrived, he was shot in the chest.

Jefferson, 40, was charged with attempted first-degree burglary and possession of a firearm after a felony conviction. He is scheduled to stand trial on those charges May 7.

At the time of the shooting, Jefferson was on probation. A month later, a judge revoked his probation for pointing a firearm and domestic assault and battery in the presence of a child. He was sentenced to six years in prison, where he remains.

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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