WASHINGTON — Bail was set at some $9.2 million Monday for two men charged in Tulsa, Oklahoma over the weekend for a shooting spree that some in the community said bore the hallmarks of a hate crime.
The two suspects, Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, who were taken into custody Sunday just north of Tulsa, are accused of fatally shooting three African Americans and wounding two others Friday.
Tulsa police spokesman Jason Willingham told AFP that the two suspects had a brief court hearing Monday via closed circuit television in their jail cells, where they heard the charges against them.
“The suspects appeared before the judge on video,” said Willingham.
“They were given court-appointed attorneys and a court date was set for April 16,” he said.
Court records showed that bail for each of the two men has been set at $3 million for each of the three counts of first degree murder that they face. They also have each been charged with additional shooting and weapons charges.
The apparently random shootings took place a predominantly black section of Tulsa, a city with a history of deep racial tensions. Community leaders had expressed concern that more African American victims could be targeted.
Local and federal authorities said they are investigating whether the shootings were racially motivated, but have cautioned that it is too early to make that judgment yet.
A task force taking part in the manhunt following the shooting included officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the US Marshals Service, but law enforcement source have credited leads from the public for the speedy arrest.
The Tulsa shooting came amid another racially-charged case involving an unarmed black teen shot dead in Florida by a neighborhood watch guard in February.
Since the death of teenager Trayvon Martin, 17, there have been a number of public protests across the United States calling the arrest of the alleged shooter, volunteer neighborhood patrol leader George Zimmerman, 28, who so far remains free.