Police say their investigation of the deadly shooting spree in Tulsa, Okla., will include the racially charged Facebook postings of a man arrested this morning in connection to the attacks, although they say it's premature to describe the incident as a hate crime.
Two white men were arrested in connection with the random attacks that left three black pedestrians dead and two in critical condition, police said.
Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested at a house north of Tulsa around 2 a.m. this morning and are expected to be charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill, according to officials.
"I'm just really amazed at how quickly we were able to apprehend these two subjects," Task force commander Maj. Walter Evans said at a news conference today. "But there are still a whole lot of unanswered questions that we have to have answered."
The shootings occurred nearly two years to the day after a black man shot England's father to death, according to his Facebook posting.
But the FBI's James Finch, who was part of the task force handling the case, today called it "very premature to talk about hate crimes. We have yet to analyze all the information to understand the motivations of the subjects in this case."
Although police were reluctant to call the killings a hate crime, others were less so.
"Somebody that committed these crimes were very upset with black people," Tulsa Councilman Jack Henderson said today. "That person happened to be a white person. The people they happened to kill and shoot were black people. That fits the bill for me. That's a personal feeling."
The five men were shot early Friday morning in four separate incidents during a span of less than two hours on the same side of town and not far from one another, police said.
Police identified the dead men as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. There was no connection between the suspects and victims, police said at a news conference today.
Two males were critically wounded in the shooting spree. All of the victims were targeted while they were out walking, and apparently did not know each other.
"We have not been able to find any commonality between the victims other than they were walking on the street," Sgt. Dave Walker of the Tulsa Police Department said.
One of the victims who survived the attack described the shooter as a white male in a white pick-up truck, a detail that proved critical in finding and arresting the suspects.
Was This a Hate Crime?
Although the two men arrested are white and victims black, the crimes have yet to been deemed racially motivated. The task force's job will be to determine whether federal hate crime laws were violated, Tulsa World reported.
Police Chief Chuck Jordan said "logic would lead you to believe that" these were hate crimes, but the police haven't yet assessed all of the evidence to make that determination.
Tulsa Police Officer Jason Willingham said, "At this point, we're not real sure [if the shootings were racially motivated]. Obviously we've just made the arrests. We need to conduct some more follow up interviews and things and hopefully some more of those details will come to light."
Dr. Warren Blakney, who heads the local chapter of the NAACP, believes the shooter did group his prey together.
"We feel like he's targeting African Americans in this part of town. And I think some parts of law enforcement feel the same way," Blakney said Saturday.
Councilman Henderson said, "I was NAACP president for seven years and I understand and I know hate crime when I see one."
Suspect's Father Murder Anniversary?
Suspect England wrote on his Facebook page that his father, Carl England, was shot and killed April 5, 2010, almost exactly two years before Friday's shootings.
A black man was charged and is serving a prison sentence for the crime.
On Thursday at 4:04 p.m., England wrote, "Today is two years that my dad has been gone shot by a f------ n----- it's hard not to go off between that and sheran I'm gone in the head." According to England's Facebook page, his girlfriend, Sheran Hart Wilde, recently died.