April 9th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

Will Tulsa shootings be considered a hate crime?

Police, officials and residents are horrified by the shooting deaths of three African-American men, allegedly by two white men, in a predominantly black area in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But authorities will not say whether they believe the shootings were a hate crime.

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, are charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill in connection with last week's shootings, which also wounded two people.

A day before the shootings, a post on England's Facebook page said it was the second anniversary of his father's death "at the hands of a f**king n****r." CNN's Jason Carroll reported that officials are looking into the posting, which may indicate that he never got over the fact that his father was killed by a black man.

A post in which England said it was time to get ready for another funeral is also under investigation.

But Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson said that if the shootings are shown to be racially motivated and the suspects are not charged with a hate crime, the community will be upset.

"They're going to be shocked, surprised," he added.

Henderson said he has dealt with civil rights issues for a long time. And Tulsa has a history with racial tensions, which is perhaps why residents were so afraid after the killings. The city of about 400,000 was the scene of a 1921 race riot - considered one of the worst in the nation - that destroyed the famed Greenwood District, a wealthy enclave known as the black Wall Street.

"(For seven years, I was) NAACP president in this town, and I think I know pretty much a hate crime when I see it," Henderson said, adding that he thought this was a clear hate crime.

Others say that is all in the past, and Tulsa is not the town it was before. They hope this crime doesn't change the perspective on the town, which the mayor said has made great strides.

There remains a strong a sense of community outrage, given the nature of the killings and the city's history. Still, police said they would not go so far as to officially declare the murders a hate crime.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan declined to discuss a possible motive Monday, saying the case was under investigation. He said he would hand over any information about the motives to the district attorney for a decision on filing additional charges.

Jordan added that the slur on the Facebook page might not be enough to add hate crime charges, because it referred to the person who killed England's father, not the victims of the weekend shootings.

"The hate crime laws stipulate that there needs to be hate speech or materials that relate to the crime," Jordan said. "The suspects reportedly didn't use racial slurs at the time."

When asked about the Facebook postings and whether that would qualify as hate speech, the chief said, "it may not, because he was talking about the man who killed his father" and not about committing a crime or the victims.

Jim Finch, the head of the FBI's Oklahoma office, said Sunday that it was premature to talk about hate crimes.

Jordan says the hate crime law was designed to give stiffer penalties in lesser crimes, like vandalism or assault, when they are motivated by hate. But in this case, with capital murder charges, the suspects would faced a tough sentence if convicted.

– CNN's Jason Carroll and Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Crime • Oklahoma
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Complexity is already arising in the motivation for these crimes.
    The place for trials is a courtroom, not a YV station.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ron

    I Hate that they did this. does that count? It's people like this that make me embarrassed to be white.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • HurtfulTruth

      ron – There's no need to feel embarrassed. To do so gives the impression that people like THEM are hiding in the "white" closet and occasionally rear their ugly heads.

      Rather, exposing those with their mentality and having a more constructive dialog about race in this country will make it embarrasing for ALL of US if there are ANY crimes committed based on racial intolerance.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. leeintulsa

    funny sidenote – england is not a hispanic name. from the picture, it looks like he's another white hispanic.. lol.. like my daughter..

    April 9, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • HurtfulTruth

      At a glance, he also looks part Asian.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  4. notlikeitseems

    There is a difference between a hate crime and a revenge killing.

    Tulsa and the media would be wise to understand this to prevent any more violence.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gdubya59

      Sorry buddy, revenge is when you inflict punishment on those responsible. These victims were innocent and were gunned down for the color of their skin. Get your head out of the sand. These were hate crimes pure and simple.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Revenge killing? What are we, the OT?
      Unless one of the victims were acutally the guy who killed his father, "revenge killing" is not applicable.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. leeintulsa

    they are being kept seperately from the general population. this first court date will be via in-house court tv, so to speak. and it will just tell them why they are being held and set another court date for pleas, etc.

    this is a rabidly capital punishment state. sadly, they won't have to spend the rest of their lives paying for this.. they can relax, the state won't let them suffer too long.

    April 9, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sam

    Enough of the hate crimes rhetoric, already! Some people are violent and kill people! Not everything is against black people just because they are black! This guy is Asian, Zimmerman is Hispanic. Wake up, America; you are being snowed by the black agenda.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • kgray

      Zimmerman isn't Hispanic he his part Peruvian and his father is Jewish. His race doesn't matter; however, it seems as if it was a hate crime, because he only targeted black people and he stated on his facebook page, that he was avenging his father's death, that was caused by a black man and whether his father murder was justified or not, that was England's statement.

      April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      black agenda...good one

      April 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim Brody

    On the face of it, based on what we know it this point, this one looks much more likely to be a hate crime than Trayvon. But let's wait for the trial...

    April 9, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    It doesn't matter whether it was a hate crime or what the motive was! A crime is a crime! They murdered innocent people and they should be punished for their crimes! And by the way, I don't think they make white people look bad! I think they make America look bad!

    April 9, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. GWilson

    How come it was not a hate crime when his Father was murdered by an African American man???

    April 9, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      I believe any crime committed against another person should be considered a hate crime regardless of how the authorities define it!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jimcrow

    one is NOT white....the other looks like a skinhead,but no matter how you look at it,al and jesse with whip up the blacks....after all,trayvon is cold news[no pun meant]

    April 9, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • chris

      So what does a skin head look like. Is that considered stereo typing?

      April 9, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Will

      wonder if you would say this infront of al or jesse

      April 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ktown8

    I wonder if this crime will even be reported on CNN, much less, as the hate crime it is. But hey, black on white attacks are okay, right!?!

    April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Haley Behre

    Reblogged this on haleybehre.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rickp530

    They should be charged with hate crimes and electrocuted.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. J

    Obviously a hate crime. Awful that his father was killed; however, killing random innocent others is no different from what happened to his dad. Others are now grieving the loss of their loved ones.

    What a messed-up world!!

    April 9, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. David M

    But authorities will not say whether they believe the shootings were a hate crime.

    Well, it certainly does not strike me as a 'love' crime. Of course it's about hate. Color of skin is irrelevant. These two dirt bags murdered 3 people, although they were trying for five. Murder is murder. Give them the death penalty. They should get the same chance that their victims did.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • N

      Bu it won't be considered a hate crime due to the fact that the crime was perpetuated against blacks.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • whodathunk

      agreed. take out the black and the white and you've still got hard cold murder. if they're guilty, send them to hell where they belong

      April 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hence21

      N – you idiot... "Hate crimes" were established to define any crime a white person does against a black person

      April 9, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • russell

      it will all depend on what colur who shoots who then it will

      April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • WISDOM357

      Hence, I'm just making a point. Please stop calling me an idiot because I guarantee you if you knew me you wouldn't say that. Soooooo again, if you've kept up with history and historical events, you will concede that Black folks haven't gotten the fairest of shakes when it comes to the justice system. My Point being , why is it even a question whether or not this is a HATE crime. Of course it is.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Balanced99

      This person has a point. To add – we'll unfortunately watch this debate get far too much news attention. This is simple – to exist, mankind must either live like animals (survival of the fittest) or by law. Here's a simple law – if you intentionally take someone else's life, you forfeit yours. End of discussion. We're not gong to gain any great knowledge keeping them alive or debating if this was a hate crime or not.

      If found guilty by a trial of their peers or a judge (their choice) – they should be executed 'promptly' with a great deal of publicity. Maybe, the next one who thinks about going on this type of ludicrous rampage – will realize it means the end of their life as well.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • WISDOM357

      Balanced, not only will they try to keep them alive and "STUDY" they will have a fan base that will follow them and women will try to marry them and the likes. My first cousin was one of Jeffery Dahmers victims and we often times wondered why was he being kept alive????? Pondants are always talking about let's take America back. Well let's start by protecting innocent people. Again they are trying to consider whether or not this is a hate crime. What it is is a D@#n shame.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
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