REUTERS - A gunman shot five people, killing three of them, in a black neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a shooting spree that left residents on edge and sparked an intensive manhunt on Saturday.
Three men and one woman were shot within a mile (1.6 km) of each other in north Tulsa at around 1 a.m. on Friday morning, police said.
The body of a fifth victim, 31-year-old William Allen, was discovered outside a nearby funeral home in the predominantly black part of the city after 8 a.m. on Friday. Police said he was likely shot at about the same time as the others.
Police described the suspect as a white man driving a white pickup truck.
Though all five of the victims were black, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan said it was too early to know whether the shootings were racially motivated.
“The whole race issue, the hate crime issue, there’s a very logical theory that would say that’s what it could be, but I‘m a police officer, I’ve got to go by the evidence,” Jordan said, adding that no racial slurs had been used by the gunman.
“Its just not time for us to say that,” Jordan said. “Right now I‘m worried about more of my citizens being murdered.”
Police identified the other people killed as Dannaer Fields, 49, and Bobby Clark, 54.
The names of the two survivors were not released and authorities said only that they were expected to survive.
Agents from the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service were helping Tulsa police hunt for the suspect.
‘PEOPLE ARE FEARFUL’
Tulsa City Councilman Jack Henderson, who represents the district in which the shootings took place, said members of the community were anxious knowing a gunman was at large.
“People are fearful,” Henderson said. “They are afraid they can’t walk down the street.”
Henderson said witnesses told police the suspect drove through the neighborhood at about 1 a.m. on Friday, stopping several people on the street and asking for directions.
The pedestrians spoke briefly with the man but began walking away after they could not help him with the directions, Henderson said. The driver then shot at them, killing one, and sped away, he said.
A witness told police that he or she was sitting in front of a house when a man pulled up in a white Chevrolet pickup truck with rust spots on the hood and asked for directions.
After a brief exchange, the suspect produced a handgun and fired, striking two people before driving off, police said.
“This is now a manhunt,” Henderson said. “They are working around the clock to bring this person to justice.”
Authorities asked people to come forward with any information on the shootings.
“All citizens of Tulsa understand the significance of this event,” Mayor Dewey Bartlett said.
Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Doina Chiacu