Police still unsure on motive behind hit-and-run attacks, but say they have enough to move case forward

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Jeremy Thacker. Courtesy

Whatever might have motivated Jeremy Dean Thacker to allegedly attack five people on Labor Day is still unknown about 24 hours after he was arrested by Tulsa Police.

Police Homicide Sgt. Dave Walker told The Frontier investigators are “scratch(ing) our heads” about whatever might have spurred the attacks, despite the implication that Thacker had chosen to target homeless people.

Thacker was arrested Tuesday afternoon on one complaint of first-degree murder and five counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

Thacker, a 40-year-old Owasso resident was active on his personal Facebook page following the attacks he allegedly committed, changing his profile picture twice and posting a meme that referenced a donation President Donald Trump will reportedly make to Hurricane Harvey survivors.

“We really don’t have a motive,” TPD spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie said. “A lot of it is speculation.”

Two images denigrating homeless people or panhandlers were shared by Thacker on his Facebook page months before the Labor Day attacks, but police said that’s not necessarily enough to identify a motive.

“It might not even have been homeless people he was after, it really could have been anyone,” TPD spokeswoman Jeanne MacKenzie said on Wednesday. “It could have just been anyone who was vulnerable. If someone else had been walking around, who’s to say it wouldn’t have been them?”

In the first attack Thacker is accused of, he allegedly walked up and used a pipe to strike a sleeping man on a park bench near the QuikTrip convenience store at 15th Street and Denver Avenue.

The probable cause affidavit filed in Thacker’s arrest state the victim, identified only as “Morris,” began yelling for police which frightened the attacker away.

Hours later 46-year-old Shawn Birdo, Birdo’s girlfriend Cynthia Wallace and a man named James Russell were struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by Thacker. The trio was sleeping under the I-244 bridge just north of downtown when Thacker allegedly drove around several times, lined up his white pickup and struck them.

Birdo died as a result of the assault, while Wallace was hospitalized with serious injuries. Russell survived and told Tulsa World reporter Samantha Vicent, “It all happened so fast, and I was stunned to wake up that way.”

Birdo was “nice and respectful” according to Steve Whitaker, president of of John 3:16 Mission, a downtown homeless shelter where Birdo occasionally stayed. Whitaker said Birdo was only on the street the day he died because he wanted to be with Wallace, who had been unable to find room in a shelter for the previous night.

Birdo’s sister, Stephanie Cook, told The Muskogee Phoenix that Birdo “helped everybody. He had so many friends, and I’m amazed at how many phone calls and messages from people we’ve had.”

She told the paper that Birdo liked the Three Stooges so much that the family nicknamed him Curly.

Following that attack, Thacker then allegedly ran over two people who were sitting near the sidewalk close to the same QuikTrip store from the first attack. Both victims — a man and woman — survived, although the woman was hospitalized.

The three assaults happened in less than 12 hours.

All five victims were members of Tulsa’s homeless community, police have said. But since Thacker has not spoken to police since his arrest on Tuesday afternoon, any connection between the victims’ homelessness and the assaults is tenuous.

“We really don’t have a motive,” MacKenzie said. “A lot of it is speculation.”

A man named Larry Wagoner, who said he was a friend of Thacker’s, told the Tulsa World on Tuesday that Thacker “would give his shirt off his back to a homeless person. If they asked for a dollar, he would give away his last dollar or his last cigarette.”

But that likely won’t slow down the case, Walker said. He told The Frontier that homicide detectives still have to do a forensic examination of Thacker’s pickup, and re-interview witnesses.

“But really all that we need we have, (we) just have to put it together in the packet … for the DA to file,” Walker said.

Thacker remains held in the Tulsa Jail without bond for the murder complaint.

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Dylan Goforth

Editor in Chief/Staff Writer

Dylan is a news junkie, fantasy sports advocate and QuikTrip addict. When he's not refreshing Twitter, setting too many fantasy lineups or munching on a taquito, he spends his time covering crime and social issues in Tulsa and around the state. Contact: dylan@readfrontier.com or 918-931-9405.
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