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. skpfrmdc

    A perfect example of my last post.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. chris

    that's fine as long ALL shootings are considered a hate crime. but then , like usual, the hypocrites only want SOME shootings considered a hate crime or they would actually protest against ALL of them...

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

    Whte trash love the work redneck. Makes them seem less trashy somehow.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      then why did you. Stick to what you know which is very little in deed.

      April 9, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laughing at you!

      Blacks might be garbage but at least they aren't hit with every sick plague

      April 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • cuquee

      and of course you would say that on a post where no one can see your face #coward

      April 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chimo

    This is most definitely a hate crime. No ifs ands or buts, The guy pretty much said what he thought and was going to do on his Facebook page, then he and his buddy go down to the black part of town and start killing. This has no bearing on the Trayvion martin case where its by no means proven that zimmerman is a racist. This case, is open and shut

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

    Who came up with Hate crime ? This is just more polictical race baiting. So when a black person kills a white person what word is considereed hateful ? When the death penalty is imposed is this love for the criminal ? No because prosecuters get to use the special little word "Justice" to carry out there desires to punish.

    April 9, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • WISDOM357

      Spoken like a TRUE racist. racebaiting. Define that??????

      April 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WISDOM357

    There is no racial tension in Tulsa that got rid of that years, even decades ago. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Home of a GREAT man that saw no color though. WAYMAN TISDALE. RIP

    April 9, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WISDOM357

    No one colored us. We were born this way. (Coloreds) didn't think racists used that one anymore guess I was wrong.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Agnim

    "Will Tulsa shootings be considered a hate crime?"

    What a strange question. lol

    Pale gun nuts shooting ANY African American in sight. What more evidence is needed? lol

    April 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Loblaw

      so the kid is a CHerokee Indian, what's your arguement for "pale" people now? I'm quite sure this kid had much to be upset about considering his father was killed protecting his sister, and the dude who killed him only got 6 years on a negligent weapons discharge conviction, then recently his girlfriend/fiancee committed suicide.
      He's not white, and yes, he killed people. There's no difference in WHO he killed. He killed, period.

      April 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WISDOM357

    Say nothing bad about rednecks. I grew up with them, love them they are a proud breed of people and some of the best folks I know

    April 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      "Say nothing bad about __________. I grew up with them, love them they are a proud breed of people and some of the best folks I know."

      One could say that about any group.
      And it would be true.

      April 9, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Well said and true

      April 10, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      "Say nothing bad about __________. I grew up with them, love them they are a proud breed of people and some of the best folks I know"

      One could say the same about any group of people.
      And it would be true.

      *This is the second time I posted this comment. CNN, in its infinte wisdom, pulled the first one.

      April 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @banasy: then they put it back lol.

      nice one, centurion, like it, like it lol

      April 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      @leeintulsa:
      Sigh.
      Now it looks like my record is skipping...

      April 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hey Zeus

      Love how you used the word "breed" to describe rednecks. That implies they can be "put down". Which, you know, would benefit society. Imagine how much better society would be?!

      April 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • skpfrmdc

      you must know some pretty messed up people.

      April 9, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • WM fo Life

      Greetings Wisdon357 from California. Let your LITE shine Bright.. Travel Lite and Shine Brite!!

      April 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Raq

    Murder is Murder!! No matter what race you maybe is right but when you don't get help & kill innocent people, You're asking for the death penalty. He never thought about his 6 month old daughter only his pain, anger & revenge. Now she's lost both parents & she along with the victims families will have to experience great loss.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WISDOM357

    Let's look at this Wholistically, why was this 19 y/o kid hanging out with this 33 y/o man. I guarantee you the thing that's going on in Florida had something to do with it and we will see more race related crimes in the near future. It's sad that this 19 y/o kid has thrown his life away because someone TOLD him he should be a racist.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. leeintulsa

    people who point at white victims and call the world hypocrits for not protesting crack me up. they say, 'where's the outrage'.. you tell me, moron.

    get out there and protest. call david duke or uncle rush, i'm sure they'd make a statement, and probably already have. don't worry about what others do. if you feel there should be protests, *protest*.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ha

    It is amazing how many people have no idea what a hate crime is.
    I will have to give you an example:

    Normal Crime = Person goes out and kills the person who disrespected his wife.
    Hate Crime = Person goes out and kills the first racial person he encounters.

    See the difference?
    one is killed because of a personal connection, the other person is killed soley based on the race of the victem.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ha

    WOW It is amazing how many people have no idea what a hate crime is.
    I will have to give you an example:

    Normal Crime = Person goes out and kills the person who disrespected his wife.
    Hate Crime = Person goes out and kills the first racial person he encounters.

    See the difference?
    one is killed because of a personal connection, the other person is killed soley based on the race of the victem.

    April 9, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ZUBU

    This is easily a case premeditated murder, and yes it was race-based so it's a hate crime. There are cases where perps gay-bash and they go single out the gay individuals to harm. Oftentimes in the process of harming them the perps use a gay slur, hence they receive a stiffer penalty for be involved in a hate crime!

    Oh, these guys need the death penalty; I just wish we could execute them behind the courthouse right after the guilty verdict, but of course the law of the land says we have to let them spend a decade or more appealing their crimes.

    April 9, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
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