Tulsa Shooter Known by Some Local Blacks

Residents are still reeling from the rampage, while black leaders are calling for hate crime charges.

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One of the bodies was found not far from the house where Damario Solomon-Simmons grew up in north Tulsa, Okla. His elderly mother still lives there. He shudders when he thinks that it could have been her or another relative in the close-knit neighborhood that was the scene of a deadly shooting spree last week.

"I grew up where they found one of the bodies," Solomon-Simmons, an attorney who lives in Tulsa and also a black-studies professor at the University of Oklahoma, told The Root. "It's my neighborhood and my wife's neighborhood. It could have been my mother in the front yard or my in-law who walks around the neighborhood for exercise. My grandmother lives over there, too. To think that it could have been one of them is a scary thought. It's a shock to the conscience. The phone call could have been much different."

But the call he received from friends and relatives was about the three victims killed and two others injured during a shooting rampage in a predominantly black neighborhood on Friday, April 6. Two white men riding in a pickup truck shot and killed William Allen, 31; Bobby Clark, 54; and Dannaer Fields, 49. David Hall, 46, and Deon Tucker, 44, were injured in the shooting.

Police say the two men -- Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33 -- drove around the north side of Tulsa randomly picking victims after reportedly asking them for directions, reports indicate.

They were arrested early Sunday just north of Tulsa and charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill. On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that the two men confessed. Each of them is being held on a $9.16 million bond.

Adding another layer of pain and confusion to the story, the wife of one of the victims told the Tulsa World on Wednesday that her husband knew England, who was known around the neighborhood. Jeanette Allen said that her husband, William, and England were acquaintances, often speaking at the apartment complex where England's father, Carl, was fatally shot in 2010.

While police have been careful not to describe the shooting as racially motivated, they have said that one motive may have been revenge for the death of England's father at the hands of an African-American man, according to the Washington Post. England reportedly wrote a Facebook post on April 5 noting that it was the second anniversary of Carl's death. He used a racial slur and lamented that "it's hard not to go off."

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Civil rights and community leaders say that those comments, along with the fact that all of the shooting victims were black, make this a hate crime. Oklahoma's hate crime law applies in cases in which a defendant targets a victim specifically because of that person's race, religion, ancestry, natural origin or disability. As a result of weak penalties, however, it is usually used only in cases involving low-level misdemeanors when prosecutors want a longer sentence, the Washington Post reports.

"That horrific race-related shooting [in Tulsa] was responded to with a coordination of law enforcement; community officials, including elected officials; and the NAACP," said Hilary O. Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau and the organization's senior vice president for advocacy and policy. "The only question is whether it will be considered a hate crime. They are some of the most difficult crimes to solve, but it's something to be considered."

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