African-Americans being marched through Tulsa, Oklahoma when white racists killed over 300 people and destroyed numerous homes, churches and businesses in a rampage supported by the authorities., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Saturday, Apr. 07, 2012
Tulsa Shootings Unnerve Black Community
By AP / JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS
(TULSA, Okla.) — Tulsa's black community was on edge Saturday after police said the same attacker or attackers were behind a series of shootings a day earlier that left three people dead and two more critically wounded.
Police are still waiting for the results of forensic tests, but investigators think the early Friday morning shootings are linked because they happened around the same time within a three-mile span and all five victims were out walking when they were shot.
Officer Jason Willingham said Saturday that police are searching for a white man driving a white pickup, which was spotted in the area of three of the shootings. At least two dozen officers are investigating the case, along with the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, Willingham said.
"We don't have one definitive way where this investigation is headed," Willingham said. "Right now, that's the only thing we have to go on."
Police don't believe the victims knew one another and are trying to determine the circumstances behind the killings. All five victims are black, and black community leaders met Friday evening in an effort to calm unrest and promote safety.
"We have to handle this because there are a number of African-American males who are not going to allow this to happen in their neighborhood," said the Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP. "We're trying to quell the feeling of 'let's get someone' and we will make as certain as we can that this isn't pushed under the rug."
Blakney said "avid distrust" between the African-American community and the police department had raised concerns the shootings wouldn't be fully investigated, and he contacted police to emphasize the need for them to work together to avoid vigilantism.
Tulsa's police department has been tainted by accusations of corruption. Three ex-police officers and a former federal agent were sentenced to prison in December after a two-year investigation involving allegations of falsified search warrants, nonexistent informants, perjury and stolen drugs and money. Two other ex-officers were acquitted of stealing money during an FBI sting but fired after an internal affairs investigation.
More than a half-dozen lawsuits have been filed by people who claim they were wrongfully locked up by police, and nearly 40 people had their convictions overturned or prison sentences commuted as a result of the corruption probe. Prosecutors have suggested the five police officers who were charged were part of a broader plot in which corrupt officers stole money and drugs, conducted illegal searches and fabricated evidence without fear of getting caught.
Four of Friday's shooting victims were found in yards, and the fifth in a street. Police identified those killed as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. Fields was found wounded about 1 a.m. Friday, Clark was found in a street about an hour later, and Allen was discovered in the yard of a funeral home about 8:30 a.m., though investigators believe he was shot much earlier.
Minutes after Fields was found, police found two men with gunshot wounds in another yard two blocks away. They were taken to hospitals in critical condition but were expected to survive, police said. Willingham said those men described the shooter as being white.
"The police chief has assured me they are doing all they can," Blakney said. "We don't want anybody else hurt, white or black."
AP Broadcast reporter Ed Donahue in Washington contributed to this report.