A city-federal task force has been set up to find the attacker or attackers who shot three Black persons dead and wounded two in a string of early-morning attacks in north Tulsa, police in Oklahoma said Saturday.
Three men and one woman were shot within a mile of each other in north Tulsa at around 1 a.m. on Friday morning, police said. The body of a fifth victim, a man, was discovered outside a nearby funeral home in the predominantly Black part of the city after 8 a.m. on Friday. Police said he was likely shot at about the same time as the others.
All the victims were bBlack, prompting the Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., NAACP Tulsa president, to say that someone appeared to be “targeting Black people to kill.”
“I’m on edge for my people,” Blakney said.
At a Saturday afternoon press conference, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said it was too early to know whether the shootings were racially motivated.
“The whole race issue, the hate crime issue, there’s a very logical theory that would say that’s what it could be, but I’m a police officer, I’ve got to go by the evidence,” Jordan said, adding that no racial slurs had been used by the gunman.
Jordan had a message for the shooter: “We’re coming after you.”
Officer Jason Willingham said police were 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.”
The local chapter of the NAACP and other Black leaders held an emergency meeting Friday evening at a church to appeal for calm and discuss safety.
When asked if people in the community felt that the shooter was targeting Black people, Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
Henderson said people should not let “some crazy, deranged person mess up their weekend,” but he added that the community “needs to watch their backs” until the shooter is caught.
“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 Blakney. “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.”
Police don’t believe the victims knew each other.
“There is no forensic evidence to link at this point,” said homicide detective Sgt. Dave Walker. “Timing and location lead us to believe they may be connected.”
The FBI is assisting in the investigation as part of a joint city-federal task force, dubbed “Operation Random Shooter,” and will determine if any federal laws were broken, said Special Agent Clay Simmonds, FBI spokesman for the state of Oklahoma.
Police identified those killed as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. Fields was found wounded about 1 a.m. Friday, Clarke 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.
Police Capt. Steve Odom said in his 30 years with the police department, he’d never seen so many shootings happen in such a short time.