Oklahoma Shooting Spree Suspects Arrested, Tulsa Reactions

Two white men have been arrested for randomly shooting black people in the streets of North Tulsa on Thursday night. The men killed three and critically injured two other. The police identified the arrested men as Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32.

Regardless of the causes precipitating the current climate of crime, I empathize with the affected families. To lose a loved one in such a random, merciless fashion is unfathomable. White men targeting the black residents of the North Tulsa area in such an arbitrary fashion is no doubt a hate crime.  The details regarding the fact that this may be a single suspect with a racial motivation are still murky, but even the Tulsa Police Department has concluded that it “is definitely a logical conclusion.”

I myself am a native of Tulsa. I was born in Tulsa, lived here the majority of my life, and attended school from kindergarten to graduation in a South Tulsa school district. I can recall many of nights watching the local news and hearing of violent crimes with the common setting of ‘North Tulsa.’ Even now when I leave Norman, Oklahoma – 2 hours away where I attend the University of Oklahoma as a full time student – and come back to visit my parents, this common theme of North Tulsa violence is constantly replayed on the local news stations. Speaking frankly, I could almost swear that on an actuary chart somewhere my life expectancy decreases when I temporarily relocate from Norman [where there has been maybe 2 dozen murders in the last 2 decades] to Tulsa [where there has been in excess of 750 murders in the same time span].

Yes, a degree of social stigma exists, but the area known as North Tulsa accounts for the majority of Tulsa County’s violent crimes. Considering the fact that this area is known for being the location of heinous crimes like rapes, murders, aggravated assaults, and shootings – such as the murder of a teenage girl and the dumping of her body in a church parking lot dumpster or the home invasion and brutal beating of an elderly couple. The plague of violent crime in North Tulsa is certainly nothing new. 

However, considering the background events that prompted the initiation of ‘operation random shooter’ a new cause for alarm has been sounded. Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson has been quoted as saying, “To know that you can't walk down the street at night in your own neighborhood, that’s a terrible shame.” But this statement has left many of Tulsans pondering a common question, “Since when has it been safe for anyone to walk down the streets in North Tulsa and feel remotely safe?”

The cause for alarm has been prompted by the fact that an outsider has entered the frame and is committing these acts of violence. These shootings have raised cause for alarm, a call for unity in the community, and a cry for collective action. A joint federal, state, and local task force has been setup to investigate this crime spree. But even in the midst of these dire straits, aggravated crimes are still happening. North Tulsa has an unfortunate socio-economic hand of cards. Hopefully, out of a sadly horrendous set of current circumstances, the assailant can be brought to justice. And from such a shocking shooting spree, a foundation for restoring the region of North Tulsa to a safe environment of all of its inhabitants can emerge.