Alton Nolen, the suspect in the beheading of a woman in Oklahoma this week, grew up in a rough neighborhood in the small town of Idabel, and was filled with anger and resentment, according to a friend from the neighborhood. Nolen "always had a temper" and a tendency toward violence, says Kenneth Tucker, a former Army reservist, corrections officer, and cop, currently working the oil fields in Oklahoma, who was friends with the suspect growing up. Tucker was "not surprised" to learn of the violent attack.
"I knew that he had a temper," says Tucker. "I knew that, like, most of us who grew up where we grew up ... we had attitudes. We grew up in a rough neighborhood and we grew up poor."
Nolen is a convert to Islam, and his Facebook page and his arguments about Islam in the workplace have been prominent news stories today, but Tucker thinks there is more to the picture than religion. "I think it's funny they're trying to push it off as a religious thing," he says. "That's not the only reason people do things that are bad decisions."
As Truth Revolt reported earlier today, Nolen has an extensive history of run-ins with police. In fact, when he converted to Islam, it was because he was already in prison on a variety of charges including assault and battery of a police officer. This type of criminal behavior is far from uncommon in the neighborhood where Tucker and Nolen grew up, near Jamaica street in Idabel. Tucker describes the area:
"It's real poor down there, the economy is really bad. And they've had a lot of murders. A lot of murderers, killers. There's a lot of crime. I saw it a lot."
Tucker points out that Nolen is not the only person accused of murder from their childhood circle of friends. Mutual friend Eric Blandon was found guilty of murder in 2013, having killed his boss at a Sonic restaurant in nearby Broken Bow. He shot her multiple times, starting with a point blank shot to the back of her head, and then stole the day's deposits she was carrying with her. He plead guilty and was sentenced to life.
Tucker saw Blandon after he was convicted, when Tucker was working as a corrections officer at the country jail in Idabel, where they reminisced about their childhood days playing football and baseball together in the neighborhood.
Another mutual friend, Corey Lewis, murdered a woman in her bathtub. He and an accomplice stabbed her multiple times. Tucker reports that Lewis, too, was from the same neighborhood and grew up in the same situation.
Four friends, three murders. Tucker says none of the three were ever overtly religious. As an adult, Alton Nolen and Kenneth Tucker were acquaintances, having reconnected after Tucker returned from tours in Egypt and Iraq. Even then, Tucker says Nolen "never tried to convert" him, nor made any mention of religion. He believes at the time Nolen was raising a child with his girlfriend and did not seem to be in any trouble.
Nolen's tendency to anger and violence was well-established. After his prison conversion to Islam, his anger and talk of violence were directed at unbelievers and America in general. His Facebook page is full of such rantings. He was active at at least one mosque in the area, and openly sympathized with terrorism. He believed women should be stoned for their transgressions and was in an argument about that at his workplace, apparently resulting in his being fired and leading to the horrific events. Such a mix of violent tendency with religious zeal has proved deadly before. It will again. For Kenneth Tucker's part, he thinks Nolen was bound to his path with or without Islam.
"I honestly believe a person becomes who they want to be," says Tucker, who feels that Nolen used religion as a cover for his bad behavior, rather than resorting to bad behavior on behalf of his religion. "In all honesty I think he'll eventually talk and say whether he snapped or not and say whether it's religion-based or not. But I'm pretty sure he's going to end up saying it was more he blew up and made a bad decision. He had a temper. We all did."