Jake England, Alvin Watts arrested for Tulsa shootings
TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Police backed by a helicopter arrested two white men early Sunday and said they would face murder charges in the recent shootings that terrorized Tulsa and left three people dead and two others critically wounded, all black.
Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham said the two men were arrested at a home 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 after a spate of shootings early Friday.
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.
While police identified the men as white, authorities declined to discuss the circumstances of the shootings nor questions raised in the community about race.
"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, and gave no hometowns for them. He said the two men were taken early Sunday for questioning at a downtown Tulsa police station.
He said they would be booked and jailed and more details would be provided at a news conference later in the afternoon. It was not known if either man arrested had obtained an attorney early Sunday.
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.
Police, in their initial statement announcing the arrests via email, signaled many questions remained about the shootings early Friday. Willingham said the investigation is still very active.
"We are going to turn over every rock," Willingham said of the work of a task force of various law enforcement groups and local police.
Willingham said the arrests followed a crimestoppers tip on Saturday but he declined to specify what that information was. But he said authorities began moving to make the arrests satuday evening on the basis of the tip.
"This evolved pretty rapidly," he said, adding a special operations team and a fugitive operations group were part of the arrest work. "We've been on them since early in the evening (of Saturday). We had been doing surveillance and using a helicopter," he told AP.
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 earlier in the weekend 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.
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, had contacted police earlier 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.
Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan had said Saturday that police would do whatever it took to apprehend suspects in what he called vicious and cowardly attacks.