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. edward ryder

    as much as i hate to say it as a african-american,though i abhor what those two did,because it could have been me if i were there,i can understand somewhat why this kid would feel this way,though not justifying it by a long shot,i can understand,his dad killed by an african american,but george zimmerman on the other hand had no real motivation,to kill an innocent kid.my question is still, why isn't he locked up yet?

    April 10, 2012 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  2. edward ryder

    we need a serious,intelligent dicussion about race in this country,both whites and blacks have been brainwashed about each other and our roles toward each other as human beings,man its time we grow up,how can we think universal if we cant, even repect one another and we live in the same country.i often think about people who've spotted u.f.o's whether they contemplated the life elsewhere and if they are already here and observing us from afar,what they must think when they see our species arguing on the basis of the color of their skin.they'd probably see us as very primitive and unable at this time to join the universal brotherhood,when they are all complexed up about each other.imagine a vast universe with countless other worlds and civilizations,on the scale of evolution we are mentality very slow.we need a serious 21st century discussion about race,not just white and black,in fact lets not even use color,it sound so childish,like a kid in a classroom,identifying colors,blue,green,orange.you know in the roman empire there were many black romans who were afforded the rights of every other roman,and if you were a greek,or persian who happened to violate a black roman,you were held accountable because he was a roman,color hand nothing to do with it.it was nationhood that mattered,if we want to be great like ancient rome,in terms of standards,maybe we should adopt this policy in the u.s.,they didnt even notice color back then, it was nations,chinese(yellow),Arabia(brown),etc.why cant we just be americans?

    April 10, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  3. magnus

    HATE CRIME OR NOT, BOTH MONSTERS SHOULD RECEIVE THE SAME FATE

    April 10, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • 0704American

      These boys are real tough therefore they should be put into general population in jail. No protective custody for them.

      April 10, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    Since when did the community's "feelings" become a factor in the judicial system. Isn't any murder really a hate crime, I wouldn't kill someone if I didn't hate them. This country is ridiculous.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Derek

      This thought has no logic.

      April 10, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chut Pata

      I wont kill someone if I hate him. On the other hand some people will kill because they are paid to e.g. mafia hitmen. Some kill because the government says so e.g. soldiers. Some kill because they think God told them to e.g. the zionists, crusaders and jihadist. Some kill because they love someone like Gary Gilmore killed his girlfriend. A hate crime is when you kill someone who is different, and your ignorance about that persons make you feel unsafe, and then you shoot an innocent unarmed person in "Self-Defence".

      April 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Angel Perry

    Of course it is a hate crime!!! What would make anyone with good sense think diffferently?

    April 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      Are you serious? Now-a-days, it's only a hate crime if white people kill black people. Do you think it was a hate crime when his father was killed by a black person? NO! Get your head on straight.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sonofamram

    Well, your lives are over, like the lives you took. Oklahoma is a death penalty state and the two of you are heading for the chair.

    April 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Keyser

    Who exactly shoots and kills people they don't hate????

    April 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. chemistphil

    why yes, killing a bunch of people because they are of a certain race is a hate crime. take it into account in the sentencing and give these guys the fate they deserve... I guess now we are reminded what a real hate crime is...

    April 10, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Charles Gannon

    Is there any other kind of shooting – you really are a bunch of clowns at CNN aren't you

    April 10, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. maggotfist

    If Jake England is white, then I'm Native American

    April 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. SUMMER

    OBVIOUS 'HATE CRIME'..no more talking, no more marching...every creation of God has naturally been given some defence mechanism...no more non-violence approach to VIOLENCE. Violence must be met with Violence. All creatures of God has been given a right to defend their self. The past will not be repeated, the present will not continue, and the future will be with Vengeance.

    April 10, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Why People Why?

    Why can't idiots realize that there are good people and bad people of all different colors? If the dude's dad was murdered by a white person was he going to roll around and start shooting at white people? Of Course NOT! That is why this crap is phony when people do it.. Don't blame an entire race of people! Most folks are really trying to keep to themselves and live the best life possible. There are a lot of good people left in the world and it's only the sick minded among us who REALLY need to GO!

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

    These guys should be celebrated as heroes. You can't go anywhere today without black intimidation. We need more boys like this.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • CommonSense

      People like you need to go. You're a disgrace to all man kind. I am disappointed I spent two minutes on you. You wouldn't say that in public. You just hide behind a screen. You probably have a copy of "Catcher In The Rye" and no windows on your trailer.

      April 10, 2012 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dezz

      i hope somebody shoot you!!!!

      April 10, 2012 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seriously

      I concur.

      April 10, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mom4hope

    Of course this was a hate crime. They targeted a whole race because one person in that race did something. This type of thinking is extremely racist, crazy and low. You never hear of whites randomly shooting other whites cause they were a victim of a crime committed by another white person. The blame would be rightly placed on the person who committed the crime. Americans need to seriously grow up.

    April 10, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wendykh

    Um. That boy on the left's eyes betray his "white" heritage. He is not white. He definitely has asian or native american blood in him somewhere with those eyes.

    April 10, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
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