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. GURU

    Really? not only do you commit a crime and have your 33 year old mentor tag alone and help out, but you post it on facebook, I mean how stupid can two people be? wow

    April 9, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CRyan

    These men are killing because of color, cops proved they don't like blacks. Zimmerman killed because of color, which they did prove he doesnt like blacks either. Hate crime, Love crime, whatever everyone is calling it. It is still a crime, And they all will pay for killing innocent people and kids.

    April 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Drew

    Any crime involving bodily harm, that is tied directly to race or religion, is a hate crime, no matter how hard the apologists try to muddy the waters. If you shoot a guy during a robbery, that's a crime. If you shoot him because he is of a certain race, that is a hate crime. Simple, really.

    April 9, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. talbet

    pretty prison face

    April 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hey Zeus

    @Al Sharpie – I would love to watch as you are fed to sharks. I really would.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Guy Noir

    England is a Cherokee; identifies himself that way legally. Possibly a racist Cherokee.

    Interestingly, when he was arrested today, he officially became a white male.

    April 9, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • DefyTheGods

      ...and the plot thickens!

      April 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mylky

      Just looking at his pic, i said he doesn't look like a full white guy. LOL
      You gotta love the media. "Whatever works for the story", is quickly becoming their mantra.

      April 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DanoRoo

    If the basis for calling this a hate crime is the fact that the perps were white and the victims black, then doesn't that make Obama's proposed tax policies a hate crime?

    April 9, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • berney47

      Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!

      While many may feel sorry for Mr. Alvin Watts loss of his father, it in no way justifies cold blooded murder of totally innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with his fathers death.

      THIS was a premeditated assassination of targeted African American's in an all black community, motivated by a racist disposition predicated on revenge.

      Mr. Watts and his cohort in this heinous hate crime went to bed the previous night with one thing on their minds, murderous revenge, and they awoke that fateful morning with the same mental disposition.

      This senseless sadistic act of violent aggression should be dealt with swiftly and decisively. An attack on innocent law abiding tax paying citizens need not be tolerated in any community.

      When individuals like Mr. Watts and his criminalized cohort reach the age of accountability, subsequently knowing full well the difference between right and wrong, the difference between good and bad, and conscientiously act with malice, with their mental faculties in order, perpetrate a fiendish crime upon a community of innocent people, should forfeit their existence among those of us who act with responsibility and civility within our communities.

      If there was ever a need for the death penalty, it fits this case like a hand in glove. And would prove to be a substantial ally in procuring justice for the surviving family of those slain.

      April 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • C Reginald Rivers

      What!?!?!

      April 10, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. perennial2

    There is no such country as Africa America. One either is American, or not.

    April 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmartPotato

      So NO ONE is allowed to claim their other country? Italian-American? Jewish-American? We're all just what you want "them" to be called? Take a history class: we are all mutts.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. berney47

    Excuses! Excuses! Excuses!

    While many may feel sorry for Mr. Alvin Watts loss of his father, it in no way justifies cold blooded murder of totally innocent people who had absolutely nothing to do with his fathers death.

    THIS was a premeditated assassination of targeted African American's in an all black community, motivated by a racist disposition predicated on revenge.

    Mr. Watts and his cohort in this heinous hate crime went to bed the previous night with one thing on their minds, murderous revenge, and they awoke that fateful morning with the same mental disposition.

    This senseless sadistic act of violent aggression should be dealt with swiftly and decisively. An attack on innocent law abiding tax paying citizens need not be tolerated in any community.

    When individuals like Mr. Watts and his criminalized cohort reach the age of accountability, subsequently knowing full well the difference between right and wrong, the difference between good and bad, and conscientiously act with malice, with their mental faculties in order, perpetrate a fiendish crime upon a community of innocent people, should forfeit their existence among those of us who act with responsibility and civility within our communities.

    If there was ever a need for the death penalty, it fits this case like a hand in glove. And would prove to be a substantial ally in procuring justice for the surviving family of those slain.

    Read more here: http://www.bnd.com/2012/04/09/2133986/2-charged-with-murder-in-tulsa.html#storylink=misearch#storylink=cpy

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

      @berney47: this all happened at 2:30/3:00 am.. they went to a bar, probably a beer bar dive, knowing that area. then, when the bar closed and they had their load on, they went on their rampage. just a slightly more educated guess.

      April 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      and just because losers kill people doesn't mean the state should. i'm sure the families would feel a greater sense of justice knowing they were killed by being stabbed 100 times with nasty shivs that had been stashed up someone's butt, while their own butts were otherwise stuffed. the families might even get a little pleasure out of it.

      plus no watching em pop up on the news for the next 10 or 15 years.. win win.

      use your head.

      April 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmartPotato

      As horrible as it is, the CRIME must be linked to racial motivation. While common sense prevails (these "people" definitely murdered people based on race) in this case, that prosecutor has to put it to a jury in a courtroom with something solid. If they keep digging, they will find it.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. matt volkel

    Hate crime? What a meaningless term. Murder is murder is murder. The reason for it does not matter. The guilty should either be executed or locked up for life and be required to support themselves. If you are unable or unwilling to pay your own way that should convert a life sentence to a death sentence. Simple. As a tax payer that is what I am willing to support. Does anyone care?

    April 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmartPotato

      Agreed. But when it's your family member, you want the book thrown at them. You want equal justice: these people were murdered SOLELY because of the color of their skin. There is no other connection between these "people" and their victims.

      And, there is something else going on here... what 18-year-old "hangs out" with a 33-year-old long enough to dedicate his young self to the point of committing murder? Either these 2 have a romantic connection or seriously low IQs.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rose

    Noone is talking about how Susan Candiotti said F****** Nig*** on llive broadcast. How can a so-called professional be so insensitive and ignorant?!

    April 10, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. leeintulsa

    the suspects have confessed.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. leeintulsa

    more data on 1 victim. the female was walking home from her aunt's to her mom's after playing dominoes all day. she left two very young children behind.

    one funeral home is already going to bury one of the victims for free.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Whatever

    Our hate crime laws are racist in my opinion. White skin minority Victim= Hate Crime + Murder or Assualt, Minority with a white victim = Murder or Assault. We need to get rid of hate crime legislation and let criminals be punished equally. Some fair media coverage would be nice too.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. chocomalk

    "Will Tulsa shootings be considered a hate crime?"
    If CNN has its way it will be.
    Seriously you pathetic excuse for a news agency, who paints anyone with light skin color as "white", compares 30 year old men to 5 year old children and uses the Phrase "F-ing N-ger" on live TV without censorship to obviously stir the racial side of this...it's time to buy some ethics and do a little research and soul searching.

    April 10, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
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