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Tulsa man charged with hate crime says he's not racist

April 14, 2012|Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- One of two suspects charged with murder and hate crimes on allegations of shooting five black Tulsa residents, three fatally, insists in a newly released jail video that he’s not racist, as does his mother.

Jacob England, 19, appears in the video wearing a black-and-white-striped jail uniform, standing in a stark room, his hair shaved on the sides into what looks like a Mohawk. He talks about growing up in North Tulsa, home to a large African American community, saying he had friends of various races.

"I always got along with everybody," England says in the video, which his lawyer told The Times was recorded at Tulsa Jail by his defense team Friday morning. "It didn't matter what color he was."

England’s lawyer, Clark Brewster, released the video to The Times Saturday, but declined to comment specifically about the North Tulsa shooting spree April 6, which locals have dubbed the “Good Friday Shootings,” that killed Bobby Clark, 54, Dannaer Fields, 49, and William Allen, 31.

Tulsa prosecutors on Friday charged England and roommate Alvin Watts, 33, with three counts of first-degree murder in connection with the shootings. The pair also face two counts of shooting with intent to kill on allegations of wounding two others, both African Americans, according to a statement from the Tulsa district attorney's office.

In addition, the men face five counts of malicious harassment, equivalent to a hate crime under Oklahoma law.

Both men were being held in Tulsa Jail this weekend on nearly $9.2 million bail and were awaiting a Monday hearing.

In the video, England says he was traumatized by seeing his father shot two years ago in a fight. This January he watched as his girlfriend, the mother of his child, shot herself to death. "I was about two feet from her when it happened," he says.

England had also mentioned his father's death on Facebook, but used a racial slur to curse the shooter, who was black. That killing was declared a justifiable homicide by authorities.

In the jailhouse interview, England says he used the slur "just to express how I was upset at the guy who shot my dad.”

Brewster told The Times he decided to represent England after receiving a letter last Monday from the suspect's mother, who has been jailed for the last 11 years in connection with an arson case. He said that he had never met the woman and that the letter arrived “out of the blue.”

In the letter, which he shared with The Times, Teri Alexander says her son "has had to deal with far more than his share of burdens in his short life." Writing from Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McCloud, Okla., Alexander said she had struggled with drug problems, and divorced England's father early on, leaving him to raise England and his two sisters.

"Our family does not hate black people," she said, adding: "Two of my beloved grandchildren are African American."

"Jake had a lot of responsibilities piled on him and I think it was too much," Alexander wrote, begging for help.

"I believe the media, the justice system and the wounded African American community will be so eager to make an example out of Jake that his humanity, his youth, and his core of essential goodness will be forgotten."

The maximum sentence for each charge of shooting with intent to kill is life in prison. England and Watts could face anywhere from life with the possibility of parole or a death sentence for the murder charges. First Dist. Atty. Doug Drummond said in a news release that the prosecution likely will decide whether to seek the death penalty after the preliminary hearing.

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