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. Jim

    I would be very sad if it turned out that the random shooting of black people turned out to be a hate crime. Stunned. Personally, I believe all crime should be the result of passion, love, or indifference.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jim

    Hate crime. What in the world difference can that make? For murder they should fry in the gas chamber. Or is that hang from the electric chair? Calling murder anything other than murder is just playing games to look politically correct. A fair trial followed immediately by an execution seems most appropriate.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • N

      Here, Here, Hurumph, Hurumph!!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rabelais Todais

    So far, early reports indicate that this was clearly a hate crime committed in reaction to a murder. Justice Dept. and FBI violent crime statistics show that there is a disproportionate degree of African-American robberies and murders. Often this is same race felon/victim, however European-Americans observe and are the victims of this behavior. This stirs up anger and predisposes to racists views. Now in the news we are seeing calls for retaliation from both races and witnessing violence bursting out of these emotions. This is a profoundly dangerous situation.

    April 9, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      actually, i'm here, and have heard no calls for retaliation.. and i've heard of no violence coming out of this yet..

      what, really, would be the point of charging it as a hate crime? to make sure they both get racial sensitivity training before we fry them? sounds like a stupid waste of money to me..

      April 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kandace

    "Hate Crime" legislation is regulated bigotry. These wackos planned and perpetrated mass murder. It does not matter WHO their victims were, black or othewise. The punishment should be the same: Death Row with an express pass. Hate Crimes legislation says that one person is lawfully deemed more valuable than another and thus a crime against them requires more punishment. If the victims were white, would we not all expect the same punishment?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wheredidcommonsensego

      Well said. In America, all people are equal. Hate is hate, no matter who is doing it. It's always evil. The hate crime laws are to protect 'special classes' of people. When a racist crime is committed against say, a white male, by a minority it is not a hate crime. I don't get it...

      April 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. uptacamp

    Was his fathers murder treated as one ?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Does it really make a difference? Whether the crime against his father was defined as a hate crime or not, I'm sure his father's killer got the sentence he deserved! At least I hope so!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      ....the black man arrested in his dad's murder was released and was only a person of interest in his father's murder but not convicted of that crime. He's due to be released shortly and can take up his life again but numbnutz will at the very best spend the rest of his life in jail because his racism got the better of him.
      What's really sad and tragic is that some here believe he is a hero (UGH!) while others believe he may have been justified. This is a direct result of the racial hatred people have carried with them all thier lives.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Anonymous

    I'm sure hatred comes into play in most murders. You don't kill someone because you like them.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ha

      you really dont have a clue about what a hate crime is?

      April 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Will Tulsa shootings be considered a hate crime? AS opposed to what? A love crime? If their guilty charge them, convict them, throw them under the cell period.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. heloise8

    Reblogged this on The Trough.

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

    I am wondering if the one guy will be able to get off as 'not guilty for reasons of insanity'. Perhaps the murder of his father and the suicide of his girlfriend pushed him too far. The other guy, not sure what his excuse will be.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HYPOCRISY

    The Kansas City murders on 5/27/12 – white teenager in Kansas City was followed home by two black teens who attacked him on his front porch, set him afire with gasoline and ran away.

    What a joke the media, Sharpton, Jackson, and all the other people jumping on this case too. Where was the outrage over the KC murder?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      5/27/12? Well what are you doing, warn this man! The crime hasn't been committed yet!

      Joking aside, any murder is filled with some kind of hatred, why we treat 1 killing different than another is still beyond me. These guys are clearly guilty of the murders, and maybe they did hate black people and that motivated them to commit these terrible crimes, but how does that change anything on what happened? I fail to see how the crime is suddenly worse because of a facebook posting. It is already a terrible crime!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • WISDOM357

      There should have been outrage and the people who murdered that young man no matter what race should be put to death before supper today!!!

      April 9, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Char

    Allow them to go free with the victims family members waiting at the gate. Justice will then be served and not at the expense of the tax payers.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. umm..

    Umm.. Kanasa City murders on 5/27/12? Are you from the future or something? Today is only 4/09/12.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bob Loblaw

    white men? The young dude is NOT white....he's native american, so here we go with the media exploiting a murder and calling it a hate crime. Whatever. If I hate you, it's not racist.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      You guys will say or do almost anything not to be labeled a racist and then back that up with some racist remark or irrelevant comparison (black crime stats et al) all the while not knowing or caring how ridiculous you sound. LOL ;p

      April 9, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan

    One of the two accused men does not "appear" to be "white". He appears to at least have some Asian or pacific ancestry. He does not appear to be black, but how is he considered white?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • WISDOM357

      Whatever his Nationality is, He has the complexion for protection in this country. He is clearly not an African American. If he is Hispanic , Pacific Islander, Asian, or what have you, that makes it even worse. They Hate Black folks more than White people do because of the stereotypes that Whites have told them about since early on. Blacks are the most hated race on this Planet.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jen

    When is murder not a hate crime?

    April 9, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      when it's done with love.

      April 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
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