Tulsa, Okla., civil rights leaders, along with the city’s community and elected officials, spent Easter weekend trying to head off Black vigilantes as local police and FBI searched for a lone gunman, described by witnesses as a White man, wanted for the apparent random shootings April 6 of five Black men, three fatally, while walking in the area.
“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.”
The spasm of shooting, in a neighborhood that struggles with crime, started in the early hours of April 6 within a three-mile radius and involved five unconnected African American males who were apparently walking. One of the two people who survived the shooting and is being treated in a Tulsa area hospital described the shooter as a White male driving a white pickup truck.
According to police, Dannaer Fields, 49, was found suffering from gunshot wounds in a yard about 1 a.m. An hour later Bobby Clark, 54, was found shot in a street. About 8:30 a.m. William Allen, 31, was found shot to death in a funeral home yard. Two additional people were found with gunshot wounds in a yard two blocks from where Fields’ body was found.
“Timing and location lead us to believe they may be connected,” Tulsa homicide Det. Sgt. Dave Walker told the Tulsa World.
“This is an event that is unprecedented in our recent history, and it is certainly one that … we want to bring to an end very quickly,” Mayor Dewey Bartlett told CNN. “The only thing in common is the randomness.”
“We feel like he’s targeting African Americans and I think …, some parts of law enforcement feel that same way,” Blakney said noting that there is “avid distrust” between the African American community and Tulsa police.
Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson told Tulsa radio station KRMG the shooting victims appeared to be unknown to each other. He said the “word on the street is that this person would drive up to people walking, ask for directions, and when they would turn away, walk away, begin firing.”
Henderson urged caution, not vigilante action. “As long as that person is loose then we are in danger, and I don’t want any vigilante stuff to start happening I don’t want a race riot,” Henderson said. “I just want this person caught and I want the people that live in this community to be safe.”
Tulsa was the scene in 1921 of one of the nation’s bloodiest race riots, touched off by a Black-vigilante response to rumors, later dispelled, of a Black man from nearby Greenwood charged with raping a White woman.
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