Birdo was struck and killed by a vehicle in the early morning hours of Labor Day, according to Tulsa police, who on Tuesday announced the arrest of Jeremy Thacker, 40, for Birdo’s killing and another injury crash Thacker was allegedly responsible for that occurred later that day.
Whitaker said Birdo, who occasionally would stay at the John 3:16 Mission shelter downtown, was only outside the night of his death because his girlfriend didn’t have a place to stay that night. They were struck under the I-244 bridge near 500 North Cheyenne Avenue, police said.
“He wouldn’t leave her, and that cost him his life,” he said.
Police identified Birdo’s girlfriend as Cynthia Wallace, 49. Whitaker said he had been told Wallace’s hip was broken in the assault.
A third victim from that crash, identified by police as James Russell, was not seriously injured.
Whitaker told The Frontier he didn’t know Birdo well, but said John 3:16 Mission staff and residents described him as “a nice, respectful” person who often attended chapel there.
Whitaker said he’s seen the video of Birdo being struck by the white pickup allegedly driven by Thacker “more times than I care to have,” and said the crime “really displays the decay of the human heart.”
“From my standpoint, I worry about the loss of innocence (in the homeless community) from these attacks,” Whitaker said. “Living life as a homeless person is a dangerous lifestyle, but this is a whole different level.”
Whitaker said the location where Birdo and his girlfriend were struck Monday was well lit and was close to the shelter, which is patrolled by a security guard.
“If you’re not safe there, under the bridge where the lights are on, well, we’ve just gone down that path of disillusionment even further,” he said.
Sandra Lewis, who runs the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, said on Tuesday she was shocked at the “blatant, hateful” nature of the crime.
“It just concerns me how blatant it was, to circle around and make sure you’re lined up just so you can kill someone who is already struggling; it’s awful,” she said.
Lewis said the Day Center had coordinated with other shelters downtown to ensure no one would be turned away while the attacks were ongoing.
“We announced that here and the people we were serving applauded, so there was a definite sense of ‘Thank God we have some place to go,’” she said.
Aside from the attack on Birdo, Wallace, and Russell, Thacker is accused of using his vehicle to attack another person later that same day near the QuikTrip at 15th Street and Denver Avenue, police said. In that attack, police said, Thacker again jumped a curb and this time ran over a woman’s legs as she was seated on the sidewalk.
Following the initial crash that killed Birdo, Tulsa Police Sgt. Stephen Florea told the media there was “no way” the crash was an accident, setting the stage for a murder charge to be filed against Thacker.
In 2007, Thacker pleaded guilty to public intoxication and assault with a dangerous weapon after he pulled a knife on a convenience store clerk in north Tulsa and threatened to “get you bitches.” Court records show he was given a two-year suspended sentence that mandated some form of treatment at the Choctaw Nation Recovery Center.
Thacker changed the profile picture on his personal Facebook page twice following the Monday assaults — first posting one of himself in a black shirt and black hat, then another of himself in a grey shirt with a black hat. He also posted a meme from the Facebook Page “Occupy Libtards” about President Donald Trump donating money to Hurricane Harvey victims. In the image, Trump is Photoshopped to be giving the middle finger.
The meme states that Trump donated $1 million while others, such as Barack Obama, Whoopi Goldberg and Hillary Clinton donated nothing to the survivors.
Tulsa Police Department spokeswoman Jeannie MacKenzie said Tuesday that officers were still conducting a search warrant on the home where Thacker’s pickup was spotted earlier in the day. She said he gave no statements to police during his arrest.
She said Thacker would be booked into jail on one complaint of first-degree murder and five complaints of assault with a deadly weapon.