Friends of shooting spree suspect say race was never an issue

TULSA - As the investigation continues into Friday's north Tulsa shooting spree, more information is uncovered about the alleged suspects.

Nineteen-year-old Jake England and 32-year-old Alvin Watts were arrested early Sunday morning in connection with the five shootings that claimed three lives.

While police describe both England and Watts as white men, all five victims were black, which, combined with several Facebook posts made by England, has some questioning whether the shootings were a hate crime.

Police documents say the roommates have confessed to their crimes, but a motive has not been determined.

On Monday, 2NEWS Reporter Casey Roebuck spoke with two people who know the England family and they say race was not a factor in these crimes.  Instead, they believe the 19-year-old snapped.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," said Earron Willis, England's life-long friend. "I'm still trying to come to grips with it."

Willis has known England since he was a little boy.  His property backs up to the Turley home where England lived with his family and where his father, Carl, lived before that.

"His daddy raised him chopping wood all of his life," said Willis.  "And we chopped wood together.  We had bonfires together.  And we had cookouts together."

Willis says England and Watts were at his home Saturday afternoon but he had no idea police were searching for them in connection to the shooting spree the day before.  That is, until Watts made a confession.

"I asked (England) why he was running," said Willis.  "He told me they were running because the police were coming.  And I didn't understand why he was running from the police.  And the other guy says, 'Because I shot five people'.  And I said I don't want to know about it.  I don't want to hear about it.  I don't want to know anything about it."

Minutes later, someone picked up England and Watts, but before leaving, England told Willis something.

"He said, 'I love you'.  And he left," said Willis.  "And then I heard the news.  And I started putting two and two together."

Willis and his mother say the racial slurs on England's Facebook page and the charges of racism as the motivation for shooting don't fit with the young man they know.

"He wasn't thinking," said Ella Willis.  "I think he was so hurt with the way his life was, he snapped."

Two years ago, England's father, Carl England, was shot and killed during an altercation with at Comanche Park Apartments.  The alleged gunman was Pernell Johnson, a 38-year-old black man.  The shooting was ruled self-defense and no charges were filed in that case.

In January, England's fiancee and the mother to his newborn son, shot and killed herself in front of him in the couple's home where Watts also lived.

"In my heart, I just don't feel this was racial.  I just feel like he was very impulsive," said Ella Willis.  "He wasn't thinking.  And he just jumped the gun."

The Ellis family was also pulled in the investigation because they say Watts hid an important piece of evidence on their property.

The morning after England and Watts fled the Willis' home, police were there searching for the weapon.

"Before I could put two and two together, police were already over here in my yard," said Willis.

He says police found a gun hidden near his shed, which backs up to the England property.

Police haven't said if that was, in fact, the weapon used in Friday's shootings.

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