Some question security fixes after Tulsa slayings

AP News
Posted: Feb 07, 2013 7:16 PM
Some question security fixes after Tulsa slayings

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Bridgett Hopkins stood outside a black wrought-iron gate Thursday that's supposed to shield her and the other 700 or so Fairmont Terrace apartment residents from thieves, drug dealers and other rampant threats in the seedy Tulsa neighborhood.

Her head hung low, she wondered if things will ever get better at the complex, where four women were shot and killed last month. Two brothers believed to have been staying in the complex with other tenants were arrested Wednesday in the slayings.

"This is not the place to raise a family," said Hopkins, 24, a single mother of three who works at a sandwich shop. "That's not the first time shootings happened here. It's just not safe."

Two killings occurred at the apartments last year, but the Jan. 7 quadruple slaying has shaken the community particularly hard and sparked apartment managers and city leaders to look for ways to improve safety and crime-solving in the neighborhood — moves that some residents doubt will result in any real change.

This pocket of south Tulsa — only about a mile from the swanky Southern Hills Country Club— is home to transients, dilapidated buildings that should have been razed years ago and cautious merchants who require customers to be buzzed into their shops.

Fairmont Terrace property manager Angela McGinnis said several security changes have been implemented since the killings, including padlocking gates, hiring a 24-hour security service, installing cameras and requiring visitors to the apartments to have their IDs scanned.

"When somebody is taken like that, especially in the type of manner they were, it's hard on us, too," McGinnis said. "We're doing all we can to make it a safe place to live and we'll continue to make adjustments as far as security goes."

But some residents, including Hopkins, say they are skeptical of the security fixes and the big talk from City Hall about making the blighted area safer.

"I don't go out (at night) because it's too scary," said painter Rodrigo Fernandez, 55.

Vincent Crisp said he's only renting an apartment at Fairmont Terrace out of necessity and plans to leave if the economy picks up.

"The only reason I'm here is because of the recession," the 33-year-old unemployed cook said.

The two men arrested in the quadruple killing, brothers Cedric Poore, 39, and James Poore, 32, are being held in the Tulsa jail and are scheduled for arraignment Feb. 19. They are suspected in the deaths of 23-year-old twins Rebeika Powell and Kayetie Melchor, 33-year-old Misty Nunley and 55-year-old Julie Jackson.

McGinnis, the property manager, said the Poores likely stayed with other tenants in the apartment complex. She said she could not find either man's name on leasing paperwork on file.

Police had indicated Wednesday that the brothers lived at the complex.

Investigators have refused to explain how the victims knew each other or Cedric and James Poore. A preliminary medical examiner's report indicated all four women died of gunshot wounds to the head.

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A 3-year-old boy was found unharmed at the grisly scene and taken into protective custody.

The district attorney's office expects to get the case from police within the next two weeks, a spokeswoman in the office said Thursday.

The slayings, which investigators believe happened at daytime, have raised concerns about whether residents at the complex and in the neighborhood have been afraid to call in crime tips. The killings also prompted city leaders to hastily assemble a public safety group to explore how to better combat crime in the area.

The Public Safety Intelligence Working Group met four times over the past month and produced a list of recommendations to submit this week to the City Council on ways to beef up crime-solving.

Suggestions include investing in a new records management system to better share intelligence among local law enforcement agencies and exploring public-private partnerships to publicize the city's anonymous and underfunded Crime Stoppers tip line.

For those residents who are unable to leave the Fairmont Terrace apartments, the wish that there won't be another slaying so close to home is about all the hope some have left.

"There's always riffraff," said 56-year-old chef Edward Tennon, who's lived there for four years. "It's OK. We just have to make the best of things right now."