SKIATOOK, Okla. – Howard Hawthorne appeared calm when he complained to sheriff's deputies that his neighbors were damaging his fence.
The deputies told him to take the matter to civil court and left.
An hour later, officers got a report from the property north of Tulsa of shots fired. As they rolled up, they saw Hawthorne kill himself and found the bodies of neighbor Anthony Graham, Graham's 24-year-old son and a friend nearby, said Tulsa County Undersheriff Bryan Edwards.
Graham, 44, was on a tractor and using it to pull up the fence posts when he was shot, Edwards said.
The two neighbors were hotheads who had been arguing about that fence for years, said Harold Swift, 67, who lives nearby.
He said Graham believed Hawthorne's fence blocked off about 10 feet of his own property.
"This is a horrendous deal," Edwards said. "This is one of the most disturbing crime scenes I've seen."
Sheriff's Capt. Fred Cotton said Hawthorne had seemed satisfied when deputies told him to take up the matter in court.
"They said he was coherent and didn't appear to be agitated," Cotton said.
After the shooting, deputies began interviewing as many as six people who witnessed the shootings. The other victims were identified as Graham's son Joshua LeForte, and LeForte's friend Dewayne Goodwin, who lived nearby.
Vanda Ketcherside, 45, said Graham was an air conditioner and appliance repairman who was easy to get along with.
"It's just senseless, senseless, senseless," she said.