Grand jury may be used to help stop `cycle of violence'

Saturday, June 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A federal grand jury may be used to help authorities stop a "cycle of violence" in Tulsa that has left at least seven people dead since late March.

Police and a federal prosecutor met Friday to discuss the prospect of using a federal panel that operates in secret to help probe the rash of killings. Potential witnesses' fear of reprisal has proved to be challenging for investigators, police said.

"The federal grand jury has some benefits in its subpoena powers to gain information from witnesses," Sgt. Mike Huff said.

Detectives on Friday released a still picture taken from a videotape that was recorded during the crime scene investigation of a minister's fatal shooting.

Neaco Padillow, 35, was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon as he sat in his car outside an elementary school while waiting to pick up his niece. Padillow pastored at Zion Fellowship Living Waters Church in Turley.

No one has been arrested for his killing, but police are searching for a man in his late teens or 20s who was seen running from the area, possibly to a dark-colored vehicle.

The man is described as black, with a light complexion and a 1- to 2-inch Afro haircut. He was wearing baggy blue jeans or denim shorts and a blue and white striped shirt.

Huff released a picture of a man who was seen at the homicide scene wearing clothing resembling that description. The man's picture was captured while police scanned the crime scene with a video camera.

"At this time, we would like to find this man to question him," Huff said.

Padillow's homicide is one of seven fatal shootings that are being investigated by a task force of law enforcement officers.

The task force is focusing on the rash of cases, which date back to March 28, that appear to have some sort of overlap.

Huff has been creating flowcharts that depict known and possible ties among suspects and victims in the targeted cases. Besides fatal shootings, he is working to identify nonfatal shootings that are potentially linked.

On Monday, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris and U.S. Attorney David O'Meilia plan to announce the formation of Project Safe Neighborhoods: Operation Ceasefire.

As part of the effort, federal grant funds will be used in the "community-based, proactive strategy to reduce gun violence."

A greater police presence in the area of several recent shootings may have prevented another killing Thursday.

A 15-year-old boy stopped officers and told them several men were trying to kill him, Officer Scott Walton said. The teen pointed out the vehicle to police, who tried to stop it.

Three armed men jumped out of the vehicle and began to run, Walton said. As the officers chased the men, two of them threw their handguns down, jail records say.

Officers arrested the men, who have since posted bond and been released from the Tulsa Jail.

The driver of the vehicle, who was arrested later on unrelated warrants, told officers that his passengers would've shot and killed the teen if officers had not arrived, Walton said.