Entries in Oklahoma (45)


Authorities Suspect Arson as Okla. Wildfires Force Evacuation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUTHER, Okla.) -- A dozen raging wildfires fueled by extreme heat and strong winds have forced hundreds of residents in central Oklahoma to evacuate, and investigators now suspect arson as the cause.  
The fires have scorched dozens of cars, homes and other structures as firefighters worked throughout Friday night into Saturday morning to bring the situation under control.  

Officials in Luther, about 20 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, are investigating reports that newspapers set on fire were thrown from a pickup truck. Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said 25 homes and a day care center there have been destroyed, Oklahoma newspaper The Oklahoman reports.

The trucks was described as a 2008 black Ford F-150 with red lettering on its side, according to The Oklahoman.

Though several firefighters have been treated for heat exhaustion as temperatures continue to climb above 100 degrees, no fatalities or serious injuries have been reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Slain Okla. High School Graduate Told Boyfriend: 'Call 911. I Can't Breathe.'

Tulsa Police Department(TULSA, Okla.) -- Slain Oklahoma teen graduate Kayla Ferrante said to her boyfriend Neikko Perez, "Call 911. I can't breathe," after a mystery suspect fired a bullet through the license plate of the car that pierced her back and ultimately killed her.

Perez told Good Morning America that he thought the gunshots were "really loud fireworks" and he has "no idea" why anyone would have shot at them.

Kayla Ferrante, 17, graduated from her Tulsa, Okla., high school last Friday, a year early in order to jump-start a career working with special-needs students. Her family said this was her passion.

After a family celebration Saturday, she went to a friend's house and later that night headed for home with her boyfriend Neikko Perez driving the car.

When the couple were just a half block from Ferrante's house, shots rang out that Perez thought were "really loud fireworks." The bullet that hit Kayla pierced the license plate on the back of the car, tore through the trunk and hit her in the back before passing through her. Police later determined the bullets were fired from a high-powered rifle.

About five minutes later, police and medical personnel arrived.

"They told me to get back and they didn't want me near," Perez said. "They started questioning me right after."

Ferrante was rushed to the hospital where she died during surgery, police said.

By the time Perez got to the hospital, he said, "It was too late. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do, to hear that my girlfriend had passed."

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Perez's car had been blocked in the driveway when he and Ferrante had left their friend's house, so he had been driving his brother's best friend's car.

Perez said he has "no idea" why the car was shot at or who could have shot at them. Police are wondering the same thing. And with no witnesses or suspects, authorities are asking for the public's help and searching for a motive in the killing.

"There are a variety of potential motives, but nothing solid at this point," Det. Victor Regalado of the Tulsa Police Department told ABC News. "We're exploring the fact that this could be a random shooting, that it was intentional, that either one of them could have been a target, or both."

Regalado said authorities are still investigating Kayla and her boyfriend's backgrounds, but preliminary investigations show, "Neither one of them appears to have been involved in any type of high-risk behavior, like drugs or gangs."

When asked whether there were any security cameras in the neighborhood that might have captured the shooting, Regalado said, "No comment."

"Based on the penetration, as well as some other things that we've collected, we were able to determine that it was a high-powered weapon," Regalado said. He declined to disclose the model of the weapon.

He said authorities are asking for help from any potential witnesses or even people whose spouses or significant others might have arrived home late Saturday night and acted strangely.

"At this stage in the investigation, we're open to anything," he said. "There's somebody out there that saw something."

"As her family and friends, we cannot understand who would do this or why and desperately want anyone with information to do the right thing and come forward," her family said in a statement. "Kayla was doing nothing wrong. She wasn't in a place she shouldn't have been, she was just a girl coming home before curfew."

Perez teared up when describing his memories of his girlfriend.

"She was shy but not around me. She was one of the nicest people you'll meet. She cared about others, always trying to help others," he said. "She just loved those kids with special needs and I thought that was really sweet of her. She'd always make you laugh, smile. If you're upset, she'd make you smile real fast. She's just an amazing person."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Three Children Among Five Dead in Oklahoma After Tornado Outbreak

Julie Denesha/Getty ImagesUPDATE: ABC News has learned of another fatality in Woodward, Okla., bringing the death toll up to six.

(WOODWARD, Okla.) -- Three children under the age of 10 are among the five found dead in Woodward, Okla., after violent storms ripped through several states in the nation's mid-section.

Even as crews worked to clean up the damage across the region on Sunday, residents braced for more violent weather that was in the forecast.  Three new tornado warnings were issued until 11 p.m. that included Minneapolis; Little Rock, Ark.; and St. Louis.

The threat across the region Sunday also included possible hailstorms, forecasters said.

Along with the five fatalities, 29 people suffering from cuts and bruises to serious injuries were taken to Woodward Regional Hospital, according to officials.

Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said the twister knocked out a transmitter that should have sent out warning sirens.

"Most people were in bed and without warning, it came through," Riffel said.

Officials are still searching for bodies.

"We've had a fatality number of five and we don't expect to find more, but we're not stopping the search now," Riffel said.

From Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, there were more than 120 reports of tornadoes since Saturday.

Residents were warned this weekend about the outbreak of violent weather, which forecasters predicted as potentially "life-threatening."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Granny ‘Drug Kingpin’ Busted in Oklahoma

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Silver haired and sweet faced, Darlene Mayes looks like many grannies but according to police, she is one of Oklahoma’s biggest drug kingpins.

Her operation went up in smoke this week, when police entered her home and found 4 pounds of pot and $276,000 cash.

Police found $15,000 bundles of cash stashed away in the home. Mayes initially told police the money was part of her retirement fund.

Police also say she was packing a semiautomatic pistol and a revolver.

Investigators say her alleged pot-dealing network spanned four states, from Tulsa, Okla., to Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. Police believe she supplied up to 40 percent of the marijuana in that area. As the mastermind, police believe she had a network of dealers, including her son Jerry who was also arrested.

Law enforcement expert Brad Garrett says harmless looking seniors can sometimes be the most efficient drug dealers.

“It doesn’t surprise me that someone this age would be actively involved in marijuana distribution because there’s just too much money to be made. If they keep a low profile, they don’t talk to many people, and they don’t get greedy, they can go on for years.”

Mayes is not the first grandmother accused of ditching retirement for a second career in drug dealing.

In the United Kingdom, 68-year-old Patricia Tabram—dubbed the cannabis grandma—was charged with intent to supply after authorities say they found a marijuana farm in her home.

In Tennessee, an elderly couple was busted for selling prescription drugs.

But the granddaddy of all drug dealers may be  Francis Cook, 83, also known as Britain’s oldest drug dealer.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tornadoes: Midwest Twisters Leave 5 Dead in Oklahoma

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At least five people are dead after violent storms ripped through several states in the nation's mid-section as officials work to clean up the damage this morning and brace for more violent weather.

Wisconsin, Minnesota, northwest Illinois and eastern Iowa face the greatest tornado threat on Sunday, which includes possible hailstorms, forecasters said.

In the northwest Oklahoma town of Woodward, a tornado touched down shortly after midnight, killing five people, authorities said.

Along with the five fatalities, 29 people suffering from cuts and bruises to serious injuries were taken to Woodward Regional Hospital, according to officials.

Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said the twister knocked out a transmitter that should have sent warning sirens out.

"Most people were in bed and without warning, it came through," Riffel said.

Officials are still searching for bodies.

"We've had a fatality number of five and we don't expect to find more, but we're not stopping the search now," Riffel said.

From Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska, there were more than 120 reports of tornadoes since Saturday. Residents were warned this weekend about the outbreak of violent weather which forecasters predicted as potentially "life-threatening."

A double tornado – two twisters from the same storm -- hit Cherokee, Okla., and continued to barrel through the Midwest for more than five hours, touching down dozens of times, and crossing a distance of 250 miles.

By late Saturday, Nebraska was hit with baseball-sized hail.

Erik Olson, who manages an orchard in Nebraska City, Neb. said a storage facility was heavily damaged.

"Our neighbor called and said, ‘Part of your shop is on our house,’ and so I come from town to assess the damage, and there's really nothing you can do about it," said Olson.

A dozen homes, apartment buildings, and a library in Creston, Iowa were completely destroyed.

Clothing, bicycles, children's toys, and files from now emptied file cabinets were thrown everywhere.

At one apartment complex, half of the roof was completely torn off.

In Wichita, Kansas, homes were overturned, trees uprooted, and stoplights were thrown into the streets.

"Everything is just completely gone; it's just a big empty space like it was never there," said one Wichita resident who lost her home.

Another Wichita resident hid with his family in the closet.

"The wind just picked up and the rain got real heavy and the hail, so we ran to the closet and the next you knew the house was moving," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Forecasters Warn of Violent,' Life-Threatening' Storms for Midwest

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Midwest is bracing itself for an outbreak of violent weather Saturday that could be "life-threatening," according to forecasters.

Baseball-sized hail and damaging 70 mph winds are expected to whip through a handful of states.

A warning was issued Friday for parts of Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

Oklahoma and Kansas are expected to be the hardest hit, according to a rare high risk warning issued Friday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center.

Paul Walker, an Accuweather senior meteorologist, told ABC News that a warning two days in advance of a storm was unusual and cautioned that the weekend "should be particularly dangerous."

Oklahoma had its first brush with the severe weekend weather on Friday when at least one tornado ripped through the town of Norman, where the University of Oklahoma is located, leaving 19 people hurt with "bumps and bruises" and a trail of property damage.

One patient was hospitalized and in fair condition Friday, said Norman Regional Hospital spokesperson Kelly Wells.

Residents began assessing the damage today before preparing for another day of wild weather. A brick storefront was decimated by the storm. One resident told ABC News a woman lost the roof on her house.

"Fortunately, the portion of the roof that's left is right over our bedroom. I mean, it was there and gone before we could even get out of bed," she said.

The National Weather Service is urging residents in the danger zone to heed its strongly-worded warning.

The storm system was moving toward the Rockies and energizing a warm, moist flow of air from the Gulf of Mexico, according to Accuweather.

Those conditions, plus differing wind directions in the atmosphere and on the surface, will increase the likelihood of tornado-spawning storms today, Accuweather senior meteorologist Paul Walker said.

“All the pieces of the pie are coming together to make a particularly dangerous situation.”

California also dealt with severe weather on Friday when thunderstorms, hail and fierce winds pummeled parts of the state.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Midwest Warned of Severe Storms, Tornadoes This Weekend

NOAA/Storm Prediction Center (WASHINGTON) -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Storm Prediction Center issued a rare "high risk" alert on Friday, warning of the potential for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across Midwestern states over the weekend.

The biggest threat is to Oklahoma and Kansas, but states as far north as Nebraska and as far south as Texas could also be in danger.  The storms are expected to intensify Saturday afternoon into the evening, when a tornado outbreak is likely to occur.

The storm system in question is currently moving through California, where it is bringing hail and lightning to San Francisco and Sacramento, and three feet of snow to the mountains.

The last time the Storm Prediction Center issued such a high risk this far in advance was in April 2011, ahead of a tornado outbreak in Alabama that killed over 300 people and produced billions of dollars in damage.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Tulsa Shooting Suspects Said to Confess

Alvin Watts (L) and Jacob England (R). Tulsa Police Department(TULSA, Oklahoma) -- Two Oklahoma men accused of a deadly shooting spree last week that apparently targeted black people at random along Tulsa's streets have confessed to the shootings, according to published reports.

Authorities say Jake England, 19, confessed to shooting three people and Alvin Watts, 32, confessed to shooting two.

The rampage left three people dead, and two more were seriously wounded.  Watts is believed to have shot two of the three who died, according to police.

All of the victims were black.  England and Watts, who police describe as white, have not been charged with hate crimes.

The confessions emerge as Tulsa police continue to piece together the puzzle that led to the shootings that terrorized Tulsa's African-American community beginning last Friday, until the men were arrested early Sunday morning.  Police recovered a weapon they believe was used in the shootings, sources told ABC News, but have not yet disclosed where it was found or any forensic evidence.

The two suspects appeared in an Oklahoma court on Monday via a closed circuit video from the Tulsa County Jail for a bond setting hearing.

Both men were booked under three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with the intent to kill and one count of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.  A judge ordered that they be held, with bonds set at $9.16 million each.

England and Watts are scheduled to be back in court on April 16 for an official arraignment. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Clues in Tulsa Shooting Spree

Alvin Watts (L) and Jacob England (R). Tulsa Police Department(TULSA, Okla.) -- Police say their investigation of the deadly shooting spree in Tulsa, Okla., will include the racially charged Facebook postings of a man arrested Sunday morning in connection with the attacks, although they say it's premature to describe the incident as a hate crime.

Two white men were arrested in connection with the random attacks that left three black pedestrians dead and two in critical condition last Friday, police said.

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, were arrested at a house north of Tulsa around 2 a.m. Sunday morning and are expected to be charged with three counts of murder and two counts of shooting with intent to kill, according to officials.

"I'm just really amazed at how quickly we were able to apprehend these two subjects," Task force commander Maj. Walter Evans said at a news conference on Sunday.  "But there are still a whole lot of unanswered questions that we have to have answered."

The shootings occurred nearly two years to the day after a black man shot England's father to death, according to his Facebook posting.

But the FBI's James Finch, who was part of the task force handling the case, on Sunday called it "very premature to talk about hate crimes.  We have yet to analyze all the information to understand the motivations of the subjects in this case."

Although police were reluctant to call the killings a hate crime, others were less so.

"Somebody that committed these crimes were very upset with black people," Tulsa Councilman Jack Henderson said on Sunday.  "That person happened to be a white person.  The people they happened to kill and shoot were black people.  That fits the bill for me.  That's a personal feeling."

The five men were shot early Friday morning in four separate incidents during a span of less than two hours on the same side of town and not far from one another, police said.

Police identified the dead men as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31.  There was no connection between the suspects and victims, police said at a news conference on Sunday.

Two males were critically wounded in the shooting spree.  All of the victims were targeted while they were out walking, and apparently did not know each other.

"We have not been able to find any commonality between the victims other than they were walking on the street," Sgt. Dave Walker of the Tulsa Police Department said.

One of the victims who survived the attack described the shooter as a white male in a white pick-up truck, a detail that proved critical in finding and arresting the suspects.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oklahoma’s Ban on Sharia Law Struck Down by Federal Appeals Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- A federal appeals court Wednesday blocked a measure that would’ve made Oklahoma the first state in the nation to ban the Sharia law in its court system.

The court ruled in favor of Muneer Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Oklahoma, who filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma election board on the grounds that the voter-approved constitutional amendment violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution forbidding the government from favoring one religion over another.

The amendment specifically stated that “it forbids courts from considering or using Sharia Law.”

Sharia law is broadly defined as a body of law based on Islam and its central religious text, the Quran.

“This is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society, and we are pleased that the appeals court recognized that fact,” Awad said in a statement. “We are also hopeful that this decision serves as a reminder to politicians wishing to score political points through fear-mongering and bigotry.”

Wednesday’s ruling upheld a decision by the lower court striking down the Save Our State amendment, which would have also forbidden judges from using international laws as a basis for decisions.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the federal district court did not abuse discretion by barring the amendment. “Because Mr. Awad has at least one justiciable claim and because the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction, we affirm,” Wednesday’s findings by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals stated.

Its proponents Wednesday vowed to fight the injunction. The ballot measure passed by a 70-percent margin in November, 2010, even though sponsors of the measure produced no evidence that Sharia law is actually being used in the courts. Its proponents said that even though it was not a problem in Oklahoma, they were attempting to prevent it from becoming one.

But opponents of the ban said it is an unconstitutional scare tactic aimed at discriminating against Muslims. They said it will have a broad impact in the areas of family law that come before the courts and could prove to have national implications. CAIR immediately challenged the measure.

Sharia law has become a hot-button issue in the United States, particularly among conservatives who want similar laws to be imposed across the country.

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich once advocated imposing such a law at the federal level, saying in a September 2010 speech, “We should have a federal law that says under no circumstance, in any jurisdiction in the United States, will Sharia be used in any court to apply to any judgment.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who dropped out of the race last week after a poor showing in the Iowa caucuses, signed a conservative pledge that vowed to fight the Sharia law, among other things, such as porn.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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