A series of shootings on Saturday have authorities searching for suspects in Tulsa, Oklahoma. NBC's John Yang reports.
TULSA, Okla. -- Residents of Tulsa's predominantly black north side said Saturday they're afraid a shooter is still roaming their neighborhoods looking for victims after five people were shot — and three killed — a day earlier.
"We're all nervous," said Renaldo Works, 52, who was getting his hair cut at the crowded Charlie's Angels Forever Hair Style Shop. "I've got a 15-year-old, and I'm not going to let him out late. People are scared. We need facts.
"You don't want to be a prisoner in your own home."
Police are still waiting for the results of forensic tests, but investigators think the shootings are linked because they happened around the same time within a 3-mile span, and all five victims were out walking when they were shot.
Though all five of the victims were black, Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan told Reuters 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.
"It's just not time for us to say that," Jordan said. "Right now I'm worried about more of my citizens being murdered."
However, KRMG reported that the FBI announced that the shootings would be investigated under federal hate crime legislation.
One of the victims told police that the shooter was a white man driving a white pickup truck who stopped to ask for directions before opening fire. Officer Jason Willingham said Saturday that the pickup was spotted in the area of three of the shootings.
More than two dozen officers are investigating the case, along with the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and other agencies, Willingham said. Citing Jordan, KRMG reported that the the task force had been dubbed "Operation Random Shooter."
As investigators searched for the killer, the tension and fear among some of the city's black residents was palpable.
"It's got everybody on edge," said Louis Johnson, 24. "Everybody is saying the same thing — it's a white guy in a white pickup or a Tahoe."
Barber Charles Jones, 40, said the north side has had its share of crime trouble, but residents have never faced a series of random killings like these.
"It's pretty shocking," Jones said. "We've never had any serial-type stuff."
At a neighborhood park a couple blocks from two of the shootings, parents kept close watch over their kids during an Easter egg hunt.
"The first I heard of it, it sounded like some type of gangland thing," said 47-year-old parent Wayne Bell, who was hiding plastic eggs in the grass. "Everybody's asking why. Everybody has to just stick together. It's more of a keep close to the nest thing right now."
The Rev. Warren Blakney Sr., president of the Tulsa NAACP, said "avid distrust" between the black community and the police department had raised concerns that the shootings wouldn't be fully investigated, and he contacted police to emphasize the need for them to work together to avoid vigilantism.
"We have to handle this because there are a number of African-American males who are not going to allow this to happen in their neighborhood," he said. "We're trying to quell the feeling of 'let's get someone' and we will make as certain as we can that this isn't pushed under the rug."
Tulsa's police department has been tainted by accusations of corruption. Three ex-police officers and a former federal agent were sentenced to prison in December after a two-year investigation involving allegations of falsified search warrants, nonexistent informants, perjury and stolen drugs and money. Two other ex-officers were acquitted of stealing money during an FBI sting but fired after an internal affairs investigation.
More than a half-dozen lawsuits have been filed by people who claim they were wrongfully locked up by police, and nearly 40 people had their convictions overturned or prison sentences commuted as a result of the corruption probe. Prosecutors have suggested the five police officers who were charged were part of a broader plot in which corrupt officers stole money and drugs, conducted illegal searches and fabricated evidence without fear of getting caught.
Four of Friday's shooting victims were found in yards, and the fifth in a street. Police identified those killed as Dannaer Fields, 49, Bobby Clark, 54, and William Allen, 31. Fields was found wounded about 1 a.m. Friday, Clark was found in a street about an hour later, and Allen was discovered in the yard of a funeral home about 8:30 a.m., though investigators believe he was shot much earlier.
Minutes after Fields was found, police found two men with gunshot wounds in another yard two blocks away. They were taken to hospitals in critical condition but were expected to survive, police said. Willingham said one of those men described the shooter as being white.
"The police chief has assured me they are doing all they can," Blakney said. "We don't want anybody else hurt, white or black."
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 added.
The Associated Press, Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.