Two Arrests In Tulsa, Okla., Shootings
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma this morning arrested two white males in shootings that left three people dead and two more critically wounded - all of them black. The shootings happened Friday in the same north Tulsa neighborhood all around the same time. It comes against a background of heightened tensions in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting death in Florida. Earlier this morning, we spoke with the mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dewey Bartlett. He gave us an update on the case.
MAYOR DEWEY BARTLETT: We have announced the arrest of two individuals - a 19-year-old white male and a 32-year-old white male. That occurred early this morning at about 1:45 local time. They have been charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill.
MARTIN: As you mentioned, the ages of the two suspects have been released - also the names: Jake England, the 19-year-old, Alvin Watts, the 32-year-old. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan suggested that these were hate crimes. Is that your understanding?
BARTLETT: No, not at this point. I do know the obvious tie can be made between two white individuals being charged with the crime potentially, and the five individuals that were shot being African-Americans. But we have not received any confirming information that it was a hate crime.
MARTIN: What has been the mood or the feeling in Tulsa?
BARTLETT: Well, as far as this goes, total shock. This has never happened in our recent history. This type of event, we obviously would not wish on any city. The randomness of it, the violence of it, occurring in such a very short period of time really brings a shock to anyone's sensibilities.
MARTIN: Mayor Bartlett, in light of what we've seen in the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, the national response that that generated, how has that community of Tulsa come together in the wake of this shooting?
BARTLETT: Well, we see obviously a better outcome than what happened there. I've been mayor for a little better than two years, and my wife and I, soon after I became mayor, we realized that the city itself had been somewhat divided in different parts of town, either on racial lines or on geographical differences. And we knew that we needed to bring this community together and lead by example. So, we have begun a process, which we continue now. Tulsa, as most cities in the mid part of our country, is a very religious community. We have a lot of churches, a lot of involvement by the religious community and I've become very convinced that the religious community - the entirety of the religious community - has a strong capability of overcoming a lot of whatever could be either economic divisions or racial problems, certainly gang-related issues, because they cross all lines. They have the ability to bring people together into a family environment and give people a chance of trying to make a determination of whether or not their lives are going down the right path or if they might see an option of doing something that would improve their lives. So, we plan on continuing on. We've done a very good job as a community. I think this event here is a great example of how all different factions of our community came together without hesitation.
MARTIN: Mayor Dewey Bartlett. He is the mayor of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Thank you so much for joining us, Mr. Mayor.
BARTLETT: Rachel, thank you very much for your time. Do appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.