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Police say Tulsa shooting suspects confessed: report

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Two white men accused of shooting five black people in Tulsa, Oklahoma, killing three of them, have confessed to authorities, media reports said on Monday, citing police and court documents.

Jake England, 19, has admitted to police that he shot three of the victims and Alvin Watts, 33, has said that he shot two others, a Tulsa police spokesman told the New York Times.

Three men and a woman were shot within a mile of each other in north Tulsa before dawn on Friday, police said. The body of a fifth victim was discovered outside a nearby funeral home in the predominantly black part of the city the same morning.

Police have described the shootings during the predawn hours of Friday as random because there is no evidence the suspects knew any of the victims. One witness said the gunman simply pulled his pickup truck to the side of the street and asked for directions before he opened fire.

England and Watts were arrested on Sunday in the shooting spree, which left residents on edge and prompted an intensive manhunt across Tulsa and surrounding areas.

They each face three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single charge of firearms possession during a felony. A first-degree murder conviction in Oklahoma can result in the death penalty.

Both men were ordered held on bail of more than $9 million during their first court appearance on Monday. The Tulsa World newspaper also reported that Watts had confessed to detectives, stating that he had he had shot two of the victims who had died.

A Tulsa police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the reports. A spokeswoman for prosecutors told Reuters that she had not heard whether the suspects had confessed or not.

Shortly before Friday's killings, England had lamented on his Facebook page that two years had passed since his father was killed by a black man, who he referred to with a racial slur.

Tulsa District Attorney Tim Harris told reporters that hate crime charges would be considered if the evidence supported it. Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan has said it was too early to know whether the shootings were racially motivated.

SHOOTINGS CALLED RANDOM

Criminal charges have not been formally filed but they will be after the prosecutor's office receives an investigative report from police, said Susan Witt, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office.

A formal arraignment, tentatively scheduled for April 16, will be held after charges are officially filed, Witt said.

The two suspects, who shared a one-bedroom house in a rural part of north Tulsa, are self-employed laborers, according to their Facebook pages. They were arrested after multiple anonymous telephone tips named them as the killers.

The Facebook pages of England and Watts have been removed from the Internet since the news media reported on some of their postings.

The Tulsa killings follow the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, a case that has captured national attention largely because of race.

Martin, 17, was black and the shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, is white and Hispanic. Zimmerman has not been charged.

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Xavier Brand and Cynthia Johnston)

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