TULSA (AP) – Authorities never had probable cause to arrest one of the two men charged in April’s shooting rampage in Tulsa that left three people dead and two wounded, the suspect’s attorneys claimed Friday.
The 14-page motion filed in Tulsa district court by public defenders for Alvin Watts, 33, argues that testimony given at a preliminary hearing last summer proved that police lacked enough specific evidence to arrest him.
But prosecutors said Friday they had enough evidence at the hearing to persuade a Tulsa County special judge to order that Watts be tried, and they added that they would offer the same evidence before the trial judge.
Watts and Jake England, 20, are charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Easter weekend shootings of William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields, who were killed as they walked near their homes in a predominantly black section of Tulsa. All five victims were black. Watts and England also face hate crime charges.
Both men pleaded not guilty at an arraignment this week. Prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty.
Watts’ motion argues that a Tulsa police detective who testified at the hearing last year admitted that the phone number that came into the department’s Crime Stoppers hotline after the shootings was assigned to England.
The detective also testified that the search warrant of England’s house did not mention Watts, and admitted that “he knew that Alvin Watts and Jacob England lived together, but could not tell the court when he learned that nor could he showed where he had ever documented this information,” the motion states.
Shena Burgess, the deputy chief public defender, declined to comment on the motion, saying it spoke for itself.
First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond called the defense motion typical, especially in a death penalty case.
“You’re going to see those motions to quash for every defendant,” Drummond said. “The issue was raised at the preliminary hearing, we argued it and a judge thought it was proper and we’ve moved on from there.
“(Watts’ attorneys) have to do this to keep their record for an appeal,” he said.
Watts’ motion will be among several argued at a Feb. 25 hearing. His attorneys have also filed a motion seeking to have him tried separately from England.
At last year’s preliminary hearing, England’s uncle testified that England and Watts treated the mass shootings as a contest. Timothy Hoey testified Watts told him a day after the killings that Watts and England each shot two people and England shot the fifth victim “that would break the tie,” Hoey said.
Hoey also testified that the day after the shootings, England used racial slurs to describe the people who were shot.
Authorities have said England may have targeted black people because he wanted to avenge the death of his father, who was shot by a black man in 2010. But England, who describes himself as Cherokee Indian, has said he has no ill will toward black people.