Tulsa Mourns Man Who 'Never Met A Stranger'

Apr 10, 2012
Originally published on April 12, 2012 5:57 pm

Three people were killed in last week's shootings in Tulsa, Okla.: Dannaer Fields, 49; William Allen, 31; and Bobby Clark, 54. Two others were wounded in the shootings. All of them were shot — apparently at random — in the predominantly black neighborhood of Northgate in northern Tulsa.

It was Bobby Clark's brother, Donny, who first found him after the fatal shooting.

"I came through there and I realized it was my brother laying in the street," Clark says. "They shot him under the armpit, and I think it hit his heart."

Bobby Clark died sprawled on Tulsa's 63rd Street, under a streetlight just a few doors from the Northgate house where he lived with his brother.

His family believes Bobby was simply standing on the corner waiting for Donny to return when he was shot by assailants in a white pickup, who then sped away.

Police say Jake England and Alvin Watts, who both lived a few miles away in the town of Turley, have confessed to the shootings. They say the likely motive was revenge: England was reportedly angry that, two years earlier, a black man killed his father in a completely unrelated incident.

'If He Met You Once, He'd Remember You'

Those who knew Bobby Clark, an unemployed musician, say he's the least likely person to have been killed by violence.

Tanya Clardy, Clark's sister-in-law, sits in the kitchen of her north Tulsa home, receiving visitors and answering one call after the next.

"Everybody we've talked to can't believe that somebody shot him," Clardy says. "It's like, why Bobby? Bobby didn't do nothing to nobody. It's just sad, and he's gonna be greatly missed."

Bobby Clark had been on disability almost his entire life. He was schizophrenic and took medication for the illness.

But he was best known for playing bass guitar in gospel bands in churches throughout north Tulsa — the largely African-American side of town.

"Bobby was a real nice guy. Everybody loved him, everybody knew he played music," Clardy says. "Everybody knew him — he never met a stranger. If he met you once, he'd remember you."

Clark was often in and out of public housing. He received his mail, and often grabbed a meal, at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless downtown.

Sandra Lewis, the center's executive director, says Clark came to the center each Tuesday to pick up his disability check. He would bring his guitar, she says, and strum for the people sitting in the center's large day room.

Lewis says she first heard about the shooting spree on Friday.

"And when I heard the name, I prayed it wasn't our Bobby," she says.

But it was their Bobby. Lewis says they confirmed the news Sunday.

"All the staff has been very sad — very deeply affected — by what happened. Not just to Bobby, but in our community," Lewis says. "It's a horrible, horrible thing."

Family Hopes For Hate Crime Charge

Clark's brother and sister-in-law both hope the prosecutor charges suspects England and Watts under Oklahoma's hate crime statute.

"I can't see how they could start targeting innocent black people in the same community that they might have seen up and down the street at one time or another. I can't understand it," Donny Clark says.

"I think they should charge them with a hate crime. Because that's a hateful thing to do. And hate should carry more weight," says Clardy.

Clardy, a 49-year-old nurse at a long-term care facility in Tulsa, has given a lot of thought to hate since the shooting. She's thought a great deal in the past five days about her own upbringing in west Tulsa in the 1970s, she says, when racism was raw and out in the open.

Back then, she says, she and her nine siblings experienced it daily.

"We got chased home [by] whites every day, because we lived in the projects. But we [didn't] sit there and get angry at them," Clardy says.

"Because you don't grow up and start hating white people [just] because they used to jump us and stuff. That's no cause to hate anybody. And I feel sorry for someone who has that kind of hatred in their heart."

Now, Bobby Clark's extended family is struggling to collect funds to bury him. Friends have set up a donation account at the Bank of Oklahoma, and a local funeral director says he'll help them out.

The funeral is scheduled for Friday, with burial at Tulsa's Crown Hill Cemetery.

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Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Dannaer Fields, age 49. William Allen, 31. Bobby Clark, 54. Those are the three people killed in last week's shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Two others were wounded. All of them were shot, apparently at random, in their predominantly black neighborhood. Two men are jailed, awaiting formal charges for the killings.

NPR's John Burnett is in Tulsa and has this profile of one of the victims, Bobby Clark.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: It was his brother, Donny, who found him.

DONNY CLARK: I came through there and then I noticed - I realized it was my brother laying in the street. They shot him up under his armpit, and I think it hit his heart.

BURNETT: Bobby Clark died sprawled on 63rd Street under a streetlight, a few doors down from the house in the Northgate neighborhood in far north Tulsa, where he lived with his brother. They surmise he was simply standing on the corner, waiting for Donny to come back, when he was shot by assailants in a white pickup, who sped away.

Police say Jake England and Alvin Watts, who lived a couple miles away in the same town, have confessed to the shootings. Police say the likely motive is revenge. England was reportedly angry that a black man killed his father two years earlier, in a completely unrelated incident.

Those who know Bobby Clark, an unemployed musician, say he was the least likely person to be killed by violence. His sister-in-law, Tonya Clardy:

TONYA CLARDY: And everybody who we've talked to can't believe that he's – you know, somebody shot him. You know, because it's like, why shoot Bobby? Bobby didn't do nothing to nobody. It's just sad, and he's going to be greatly missed.

BURNETT: She sits in the kitchen of her house in north Tulsa, receiving visitors and answering one call after the next. Bobby Clark had been on disability almost all of his life; he was schizophrenic, and took medication for it. But he was best-known for playing bass guitar in gospel bands, in churches throughout north Tulsa, the largely African-American side of town.

CLARDY: Bobby was a real nice guy. Everybody loved him. Everybody knew he played music. Everybody knew him; he never met a stranger. If he met you once, he'd remember you.

BURNETT: Clark was in and out of public housing. He received his mail, and grabbed a meal, at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless downtown. Every Tuesday, when he came down to pick up his disability check, Clark would bring his guitar and strum for the people sitting in the big dayroom, says Sandra Lewis, the executive director of the center. She heard about the shooting spree on Friday.

SANDRA LEWIS: And when I heard the name, I prayed it wasn't our Bobby. But then - I guess - we confirmed that Sunday, that it was our Bobby Clark. And all the staff has been very - very sad, very deeply affected by what happened - not just to Bobby, but in our community. It's a horrible, horrible thing.

BURNETT: Clark's brother, Donny, and his sister-in-law, Tonya, hope that the prosecutor charges the pair of suspects under Oklahoma's hate-crime statute.

CLARK: I can't see how they would start targeting innocent black people in the same community, that they might have seen up and down the street at one time or another. I just can't understand it.

CLARDY: I think they should charge them with a hate crime because that's a hateful thing to do. And hate should carry more weight.

BURNETT: Tonya Clardy, a 49-year-old nurse at a long-term care facility in Tulsa, has given a lot of thought to hate in the last five days. She's thought about her own upbringing in west Tulsa in the 1970s, when - she says - racism was raw, and out in the open. She says she and her nine brothers and sisters experienced it going to school.

CLARDY: We got chased home from whites every day 'cause we lived in the projects. But we don't sit there and get angry at them because you know - you grow up and start hating white people because they used to jump us, and stuff. You know, that's no cause to hate anybody. And I feel sorry for anybody, you have that kind of hatred in their heart.

BURNETT: Bobby Clark's extended family is struggling to bury him. Friends set up a donation account at the Bank of Oklahoma, and a local funeral home director says he'll help them out. The funeral is scheduled for Friday, with burial at Crown Hill Cemetery.

John Burnett, NPR News, Tulsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.