US & Canada

Tulsa shooting rampage suspects in court

Composite police photo of Jake England and Alvin Watts 9 April 2012
Image caption Jacob England (left) and Alvin Watts (right) were roommates near Tulsa

Two men accused of shooting five black people, three fatally, in the Oklahoma city of Tulsa on Friday have had their bail set at $9m (£5.6m) each.

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, appeared in court via video link from jail and will be formally charged at a later date.

The roommates are expected to face three counts of first-degree murder and two of shooting with intent to kill.

They were arrested at home near Tulsa on Sunday after a tip-off.

Their next court appearance is scheduled for 16 April.

'Axe to grind'

The three dead have been identified as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31.

Two men wounded in the attacks, David Hall, 46, and Deon Tucker, 44, have since been released from hospital.

None of the victims are thought to have known each other and all of them were out walking when they were shot within a 3-mile (4.8-km) radius early on Friday.

Image caption Jake England and Alvin Watts were living in this property north of Tulsa where they were arrested

Although the north Tulsa area where the shootings took place is a predominantly black area, law enforcement officials said it was too early to assume a racial motivation.

However, police spokesman Jason Willingham said that Mr England may have had an "axe to grind" because of his father's death two years ago.

Carl England was shot in the chest in April 2010 during a fight with Pernell Demond Jefferson, a black man who allegedly tried to break into the apartment of Mr England's daughter's boyfriend.

Jefferson is serving six years in jail on a weapons charge.

In January, Jake England also witnessed the death of his fiancee, Sheran Hart Wilde, 24, who according to reports shot herself in front of him.

Police said that on Thursday Mr England had posted a Facebook update, using a racial slur, expressing anger at his father's death.

"Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a [expletive] [racial epithet]," Mr England wrote on Thursday. "It's hard not to go off between that and sheran I'm gone in the head."

Shortly after Friday's shootings, Mr England reportedly posted again on Facebook: "People talking [expletive] on me for some [expletive] I didn't do it just mite be the time to call it quits... I hate to say it like that but I'm done if something does happen tonight be ready for another funeral later."

His Facebook page was taken offline as of Sunday.

Alvin Watts' brother, Gene, toldthe Tulsa World newspaperthat Alvin Watts had moved in with Mr England to help him after his father's death.

Susan Sevenstar, a family friend, told the Associated Press that Mr England was "a good kid" who "was not in his right mind" since his father's death and fiancee's suicide.

'Vicious and cowardly'

Police could not confirm whether the suspects were armed when they were taken into custody.

Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan had earlier described the shootings as "vicious and cowardly".

The attacks come at a fraught time for African-Americans, amid continued protests over the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was killed by a neighbourhood watch volunteer in Florida in February.

Tulsa City Council's only black member, Jack Henderson, said he believed the two suspects simply had a grudge against black people.

Mr Henderson, who represents the district where the shootings took place, said he hoped prosecutors would pursue hate crime charges if the evidence pointed in that direction.

During weekend memorials for the victims, the city's religious leaders called for the community to come together.

Warren Blakney, a church minister and local president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, thanked police and the FBI,according to the Tulsa World.

"I should say to those that may be listening across the country, we are one America," Rev Blakney said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites