Tulsa Shooting Suspect Had Troubled Past
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish. Nine million dollars - that's the steep bond the judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, set today for each of the two men accused in a brazen shooting spree. They allegedly killed three people last Friday, and injured two others. All the victims were black.
SIEGEL: Authorities have not yet said whether they consider the killings hate crimes. They announced today that charges should be filed next week. NPR's John Burnett has spent the day piecing together the background of one suspect, 19-year-old Jake England.
JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Peoria Avenue is the main thoroughfare that runs north-south through Turley, Oklahoma, just north of Tulsa. It's a down-at-the heels town with one grocery, one laundromat, one stop light and three pawnshops. The post office and the elementary school recently closed. Locals say that most people here just get by, and that was certainly the case with murder suspect Jake England.
The account you're about to hear comes from three people who say they are friends of Jacob Carl England. They're a paralegal, a grocery store manager, and a childhood buddy. But because of the publicity and their horror of over what has happened, they all asked their names not be used. The details of their individual stories all cross-reference. The picture they paint of Jake England's slide begins with the murder of his father, Carl England, on April 7, 2010. According to published accounts of the crime, he got into a confrontation with a tenant in his daughter's apartment complex. The tenant, who was black, fatally shot Carl England in the chest, in front of his three children.
Prior to his father's death, Jake England was reportedly a normal, happy-go-lucky kid, well-known around Turley. He liked to ride horses that his family kept behind their house, and goof off. Friends say the England family is part Cherokee Indian. Public records show that Jake had one offense, in 2011, for driving with a suspended license.
Carl, the dad, was a single parent. Their mother was absent. He ran a small tree-cutting service and was, according to these interviews, a strict father who loved his kids and kept an eye on them. When Carl England died, Jake and his younger sister were on their own. Jake, who was a 17-year-old who'd never finished high school, took over the tree-trimming business and later worked as a handyman at a trailer park. Several businesses in town put out collection jars, asking for donations to help the struggling England family.
He was still a kid, says the paralegal, who's known Jake for years. When his dad died, it all fell apart. Jake reportedly got a memorial tattoo, in memory of his father, on his arm, said the family friend. All three sources for this story said they knew Carl England to be a racist. When he was killed by a black man, who's now in prison for the crime, that deeply affected his son. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The man is in prison for a conviction not related to the shooting of Carl England.] He hated his father's murderer with a purple passion, says the paralegal. The hatred inside of him just grew and grew.
His former employer said that Jake began carrying a pistol after his father's death, and he bragged that he was armed. Jake England posted a now well-known racist rant on Facebook last Thursday, April 5th: Today is two years that my dad has been gone, shot by an F-ing N. It's hard not to go off between that and Sheran. The death of his 24-year-old fiancee reportedly pushed Jake England past the breaking point. On January 10th of this year, Sheran Wilde shot herself to death in front of him, according to friends in Turley, and left Jake to care for their 3-month-old son, Jake Jr.
That's when his friends really started worrying about Jake. Jake, we just all care about you. If you need anything, I'm here for you, says one Facebook post. England's former employer said that after Sheran's suicide, he just started crumbling. We worried about him committing suicide. It was one of his Facebook friends, 33-year-old Alvin Watts, also from Turley, who moved in with England after Sheran's suicide to help him. Watts is the second suspect who's being held in connection with the shooting rampage. Earlier today, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris faced the media.
TIM HARRIS: This community will not be defined by the treacherous, evil crimes of two individuals. That's not what Tulsa, Oklahoma, is about, and that's not what our people are about.
BURNETT: His shocked childhood friend commented: Jake was hurting. Not in a million years would I think he was capable of this.
BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, Tulsa.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.