TULSA, Okla. (AP) – Two men charged with first-degree murder and hate crimes in the shooting deaths of three people in Tulsa last year pleaded guilty Monday and were sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Alvin Watts and Jake England changed their previous pleas of not guilty in Tulsa County District Court as part of a deal in which prosecutors agreed to spare the death penalty. Members of the victims’ families also agreed to the punishment, prosecutors told the court.
England, his voice cracking slightly as he read a prepared statement to the court, admitted going on the rampage with Watts with the aim of killing black people. England also apologized to the city’s black community.
“There are no words to express the sorrow and guilt of what I have done,” England said. “There is no excuse for my actions. I must live with this in my heart until the end of my days.”
Watts said nothing when offered a chance to speak in court, only admitting to helping England carry out the rampage.
As England read his statement, family members of the victims sobbed quietly in the first row. They were later ushered out of the courtroom after the men were sentenced, and did not speak to reporters.
Watts, 34, and England, 21, were charged with first-degree murder, shooting with intent to kill and five hate crimes in the 2012 shootings of William Allen, Bobby Clark and Dannaer Fields, who were killed as they walked near their Tulsa homes on Easter weekend. Two others were shot and wounded.
All five victims were black. Watts is white and England has said he is Cherokee Indian. Watts and England had faced separate trials that were scheduled for early next year.
District Court Judge James Caputo sentenced both men to three terms of life in prison without parole for the murder convictions. The two were each given two more life terms for shooting with intent to kill and five, one-year prison terms for the hate crimes.
“Justice is served by this result,” Tulsa County First Assistant District Attorney Doug Drummond said. “These killers will spend the rest of their life behind bars for their actions.
“This was a senseless and tragic violent crime that alarmed everyone in our city as well as nationwide,” he added.
Rob Nigh, an attorney for England, said a deal from prosecutors had only recently been offered to his client. He said England decided to plead guilty because he wanted to take responsibility for what he had done.
“He has tremendous remorse for what has happened,” Nigh said. “He was telling the truth when he said he will live with this for the rest of his life.”
Some of the brutal details on how the pair carried out their rampage last year came out in a preliminary hearing.
England’s uncle testified last year that England and Watts treated the mass shootings as a contest and said England used racial slurs to describe the victims the day after the crimes.
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