TULSA, Okla. — One of two Oklahoma men accused of going on a racially motivated shooting spree in a predominantly black section of Tulsa this month says he has no ill-will toward black people and counts several of them among his friends.
“I always got along with everybody. It didn’t matter what color you [were],” Jake England told his attorney, Clark Brewster, in a brief videotaped interview from jail that Mr. Brewster gave to the Associated Press.
A judge entered not guilty pleas Monday for Mr. England and Alvin Watts, who appeared in Tulsa County District Court via closed-circuit television from jail, where they have been held since their arrests Easter Sunday. They face murder and hate crimes charges in the deaths of three black men and attacks on two others.
Special Judge William Hiddle assigned an attorney to Mr. Watts and entered not guilty pleas for both men to charges of first-degree murder, shooting with the intent to kill and malicious harassment in the April 6 attacks in Tulsa. The harassment charge is the equivalent of a hate crime under state law.
The first-degree murder counts are punishable by execution or life in prison. Prosecutors have not decided whether to seek the death penalty.
“I want to reiterate that this is the first step in obtaining justice in this case,” said Doug Drummond, Tulsa County first assistant district attorney. “In these types of cases, it’s more of a marathon than a sprint.”
Authorities contend the two housemates targeted their victims because Mr. England wanted to avenge his father’s shooting death by a black man two years ago. Police said Mr. England and Mr. Watts confessed after their arrests and said they chose the victims at random.
The early-morning shootings terrorized Tulsa’s black community over Easter weekend. William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields were killed, and David Hall and Deon Tucker were wounded.
A day before the shootings, Mr. England apparently wrote a Facebook post saying that it was the second anniversary of his father’s death, using a racial slur and lamenting that “it’s hard not to go off.”
In the videotaped interview, Mr. Brewster asks Mr. England why he used the slur on the posting.
“It was just express[ing] the way I was upset about the guy that shot my dad,” Mr. England says in the video, which lasts less than eight minutes. “That’s the only time I ever expressed anything like that about somebody.”