Shawn Tyson guilty of
murdering two Britons in Florida
March 29, 2012
American teenager has been jailed for life in the US after being
found guilty of the first degree murder of two British tourists in
James Cooper, 25, from Warwickshire, and James
Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, were shot in Sarasota.
The pair, who met at Sheffield University, were
killed after drunkenly wandering into the Newtown area in the
early hours of 16 April 2011.
The court heard Shawn Tyson, 17, had killed
them after trying to rob them.
It also emerged that hours before the murders,
Tyson had been released after his arrest following a shooting on 7
Tyson, who was tried as an adult at Sarasota
County Court despite having been 16 at the time of the murders,
was given two life sentences without the eligibility of parole.
'Pain you have
Before sentence was passed, two of the British
pair's friends read out impact statements to the court.
Joe Hallett accused Tyson of taking everyone
involved on a "journey to hell during the past 12 months".
He said: "You murdered two people who, if you
had given them the chance, would have given you the time of day.
"Every night you go to sleep, every morning you
wake up, I want you to think of my friends who you murdered."
He added: "I hope that you and your family
suffer every single second of every single day, just as the loved
ones of James Kouzaris and James Cooper do.
"For every painful detail of their deaths I
have endured, for each disturbing photo I have been exposed to, I
am still glad I have this opportunity to look into your eyes and
try to explain the pain that you have caused."
Paul Davies called Tyson "a coward" and said:
"You might think being a man is about carrying a gun around but it
isn't. Wearing a mask and shooting two guys in cold blood is being
He added: "For the past week I've had to sit in
this courtroom and watch photos of my two best friends lying on
the ground, riddled with bullet holes.
"I've had to listen to how you stalked them,
made them beg for their lives and then unload a gun on them.
"I've had to listen to all that knowing that
they would never in a million years have threatened you or tried
to hurt you.
"They wouldn't hurt anyone because, like I say,
they were good men, the most amazing men you could have ever met.
Maybe if you were more of a man that night you would have known
them long enough to find that out for yourself."
The families of Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris were
not in court but said in a statement they were satisfied with the
They added: "It is a fact that we were given a
life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken
"Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of
parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul."
The families also criticised the Sarasota court
system that had freed Tyson after a judge had warned the teenager
was a danger to the public following the earlier shooting, in
which no-one was hurt.
In the statement, the families said: "The evil
of the killer is one thing, but the fact is, he would not have
been on the streets had instructions to keep him incarcerated been
passed from one judge to another."
When the mistake came to light the Mayor of
Sarasota, Kelly Kirschener, vowed the city's prosecutors would
never let anything similar happen again.
The court also saw a video made by Mr
Kouzaris's parents. His father Peter, with his wife by his side,
said: "The 16th of April, 2011, will be etched in the hearts and
the memories of all those people who loved and had the privilege
of loving James.
"Who could have imagined the tragic events that
unfolded so cruelly?"
He added his son "had been needlessly taken" in
a "moment of madness."
During the trial, jurors heard how Mr Kouzaris,
a local government officer, and tennis coach Mr Cooper had been
out drinking in downtown Sarasota before getting lost and
wandering into the Newtown area in the early hours.
The prosecution said they were confronted by
Tyson who tried to rob them and then shot them when he realised
they had very little money.
The court heard Tyson had boasted to his friend
Latrece Washington, who testified against him, that one of the men
had begged for his life but he shot him anyway.
The teenager was seen by neighbours running to
his house and climbing in the window just after the gunshots.
He also told another friend, Marvin Gaines, he
had killed the men.
Mr Gaines said Tyson gave him seven 0.22
calibre shell casings to bury in his backyard, as well as a gun.
Mr Gaines later gave the gun to friend Jermaine
Bane, who sold it for $50.
After he was threatened with a charge of being
an accessory to murder, Mr Gaines led police to where the casings
were buried. The murder weapon has never been found.
Shawn Tyson murder trial: Gun
was 'buried by friend'
March 27, 2012
friend of a teenager accused of shooting dead two British tourists
in Florida has told a court how he buried the gun to help him out.
Marvin Gaines, 19, said he had buried the shell
casings and a gun in his back garden to help Shawn Tyson, who
denies committing the double murder.
James Cooper, from Warwickshire, and James
Kouzaris, from Northampton, were found shot dead in Sarasota last
Mr Gaines said his friend had confessed to him
saying "Oh bra, I did that".
Mr Tyson will not give evidence in his defence.
When asked by Judge Rick De Furia if he wished
to remain silent, he said: "Yes, sir."
The British tourists, who met at Sheffield
University, were found dead on 16 April in a public housing
neighbourhood in the Newtown area of the city.
They were stripped to their waists and their
trousers had been pulled down to their thighs, but they still had
their wallets and a small amount of cash on them.
Mr Gaines told the court that when he had met
Mr Tyson on 16 April, the accused had asked him if he had heard
"about them people getting killed back there?"
Mr Gaines said he had known nothing about it,
to which Mr Tyson had replied: "Oh bra, I did that."
He said Mr Tyson had then given him the shell
casings from a suitcase he had hidden in his brother's bedroom.
"He gave them to me and told me to bury them,"
Mr Gaines told the court.
"I asked him, 'do you want me to bury them or
throw them away?' He told me to bury them."
The murder weapon has not been found.
When questioned by police, Mr Gaines initially
denied any knowledge of the murders.
However he later decided to co-operate when
detectives told him that he could be charged as an accessory to
Firearms expert Rosemary Jassoy examined two
bullets recovered from the bodies of Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper.
She also examined all seven shell casings and
said the casings and the bullets were suitable for a 0.22 calibre
She said the casings had been fired by the same
gun but there was no way to prove the recovered bullets had come
from any of the seven casings.
The court also heard DNA matching the profile
of Shawn Tyson was found on a sample taken from Mr Cooper's jeans.
Crystal Oechsle, a DNA analyst from DNA
Laboratories International, said samples were taken from four
areas on the garment.
On one, from the left front leg of the
trousers, she said a mixed DNA profile was found, which included
Mr Tyson's DNA.
The trial continues.
Shawn Tyson trial: Murder
accused often carried a gun, court hears
March 26, 2012
teenager accused of murdering two British tourists in Florida
often carried a revolver which he fired into the air, a US court
James Cooper, 25, from Warwickshire and James
Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, were shot dead in Sarasota last
Floridian Shawn Tyson, 17, from Sarasota,
denies two counts of first degree murder.
His friend Jermaine Bane lives near Mr Tyson
and told the court that he regularly saw Mr Tyson carrying a gun.
He told the court he met Mr Tyson about three
years ago, they lived within minutes from each other's house and
typically spent about 10 hours per day in each other's company.
Mr Bane told jurors he often often saw his
friend with a 0.22 calibre revolver in his pocket.
He said he had seen Mr Tyson fire the gun into
the air on about four or five occasions.
He said shortly before the tourists died, Mr
Tyson had mentioned spotting the Britons walking around the public
housing neighbourhood where he lived in Newtown, Sarasota.
Mr Bane told the court he received a phone call
from Mr Tyson in which he talked about the British men, who he
referred to as the "crackers", meaning white men.
Mr Bane also reported hearing gunshots around
the time of the fatal shooting in the early hours of 16 April and
said when police searched Mr Tyson's house, he saw his friend
throw something into another friend's car.
The two British men were found shot dead and
stripped to the waist.
Their trousers had been pulled down to their
thighs, but they still had their wallets and a small amount of
cash on them.
Mr Kouzaris had been staying with Mr Cooper's
family in Longboat Key, an island 12 miles away from where their
bodies were found.
Latrece Washington, another of Mr Tyson's
friends, told the court how Mr Tyson had described the killings to
her and a friend as a failed robbery attempt.
Mr Tyson was with someone else when they
spotted the two British men he planned to rob, she said.
She said Mr Tyson had told her the men looked
drunk and when he found they had very little cash on them, he told
the men, "well since you ain't got no money, I got something for
Ms Washington told the court: "That's when he
like shot one of them in the side and one of them fell instantly
and then the other one was crying for his life, and he shot him
and emptied the clip on him."
The trial continues.
Shawn Tyson trial: Sister
held 'over Facebook message to witness'
March 24, 2012
The sister of a teenager
on trial accused of murdering two British tourists in Florida has
been charged with retaliating against a witness.
Samantha Huffman is believed to have been
arrested over a comment she made on Facebook, directed at Nakeira
Ms Keno, 21, had given evidence in the trial of
Shawn Tyson earlier this week.
Mr Tyson denies murdering James Cooper, 25, of
Warwickshire and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, who were
shot dead in Sarasota, last April.
Ms Keno told the court on Thursday that she saw
the men walking through the public housing complex, known as The
Courts, just before the shootings.
That evening Ms Huffman wrote on her Facebook
page: "Nakeira Keno.....i hope u got a check for takin the
stand...", as well as several insults directed as Ms Keno.
Sarasota Police Department records show that
she has been charged with retaliating against an informant,
victim, or witness.
According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune,
police said when they questioned her about the Facebook post she
told them she was exercising her right to free speech.
Ms Huffman's arrest highlights difficulties
police say they faced trying to investigate the murder.
Det John Todd, lead investigator, told the
court people did not want to be seen to "rat out" or "snitch" on
"This is a very tight group, they were all
friends," he said. "They all lived in a very tight-knit small
community and they were friends."
"These guys don't want to be labelled as a
Mr Tyson's defence lawyers have said several
witnesses changed their stories once they were offered plea deals,
or other benefits, by police.
It is claimed two witnesses were given help
moving out of the area, while others are said to be testifying in
exchange for lesser sentences for other crimes.
The court has not heard any suggestion that Ms
Keno was offered any deal or encouragement to give evidence.
Shawn Tyson trial: Jurors
told of prison phone call
March 23, 2012
teenager accused of murdering two British tourists said on the
phone that bullet casings found by police could "f*** him up", a
Florida court heard.
The court was played the recording of the call
Shawn Tyson, 17, made to his half brother from prison.
Mr Tyson denies murdering James Cooper, 25, of
Warwickshire and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, who were
shot dead in Sarasota last April.
Mr Tyson allegedly told a friend he had killed
the men, the court was told.
Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris were found shirtless
and with their trousers round their thighs after being shot
Mr Tyson allegedly tried to rob the men who had
drunkenly walked into a rundown public housing project in Newtown
known as The Courts, the court has heard.
The defendant, who was 16 at the time of the
deaths, has been charged as an adult.
'DNA on clothes'
Mr Tyson, who denies two counts of first-degree
murder, faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
At the hearing on Friday, the court was played
a call Mr Tyson made from Sarasota County Jail which was recorded
In the conversation, Mr Tyson tells his
half-brother "Somebody say they saw me out there..", adding: "they
found the bullets".
Asked about the discovery, the defendant
replies: "It's the only thing that's going to f*** me up."
The jury was told that Mr Tyson's DNA was found
on James Cooper's trousers and was shown the bloodstained clothes.
Earlier, Detective John Todd told the court Mr
Tyson allegedly told his friend Marvin Gaines he had killed the
Prosecutor Karen Frailling asked Mr Todd, the
lead detective in the case: "Did Marvin Gaines also say that Shawn
Tyson told him 'I killed those two guys, you know those two bodies
back there, I did that?"
Mr Todd replied: "He said that Tyson escorted
him into the apartment so that nobody else could hear and told him
that he killed the two people at the back of the projects."
Mr Gaines told police the defendant had hidden
the gun used under his house, then Mr Gaines had passed this to
another friend, the court heard.
Mr Cooper, of Hampton Lucy, and Mr Kouzaris
were on holiday with Mr Cooper's family when they were killed in
the early hours of 16 April.
The detective said "all the evidence pointed to
an attempted robbery" as the reason the victims had their trousers
Defence lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer told the court
few people had been honest with police in the case - some had been
threatened while some had been offered plea deals or benefits to
encourage them to testify.
She asked Mr Todd: "Very few people in this
case were initially truthful to you, correct?"
The officer replied: "Correct."
Jurors heard Mr Gaines was told by police that
it was in his interest to be on the side of Sarasota Police
Mr Todd admitted saying: "You could be at the
defence table with Shawn, is that where you want to be?"
The court was told Joshua Bane, a witness and
friend of Mr Tyson's, was apparently not arrested over reports he
was seen waving a gun around the housing project area.
The trial continues.
Shawn Tyson trial: Shot
Britons found 'with shirts off'
March 22, 2012
A court has heard that two
British men shot dead in Florida last April were found with their
shirts off and trousers round their thighs.
Shawn Tyson, 17, is being tried for the murders
of James Cooper, 25, from Hampton Lucy, near Warwick, and James
Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton.
A court in Sarasota, Florida, heard they had
drunkenly walked into the rundown neighbourhood of Newtown.
Mr Tyson has been charged as an adult with two
counts of first-degree murder.
He was 16 at the time of the murders and faces
life in prison without the possibility of parole if he is
Mr Tyson's mother, Kenyatta Whitfield, who has
been in court since Monday, has repeatedly protested her son's
Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper were in the second
week of a three-week holiday with Mr Cooper's family when they
were killed in the early hours of 16 April.
'Six to eight
The court heard how the pair had been out for a
meal with Mr Cooper's parents and then went drinking.
Assistant State Attorney Ed Brodsky, for the
prosecution, said they left the Gator Club in Sarasota at about
02:00 local time before wandering into Newtown, a poorer area of
Mr Brodsky told the court that witnesses
reported seeing two black males watching the British holiday
makers before hearing between six and eight gunshots ring out.
He said that police and fire and rescue
services arrived at Carver Court and pronounced the men dead at
They were found on either side of the road.
Mr Brodsky said: "James Cooper was shirtless,
clutching his shirt in his hand, his blue jeans that he was
wearing were found pulled down about mid-thigh level.
"He still had his wallet, money, cell phone and
camera in his possession."
The court was shown a range of pictures of the
crime scene, including one showing Mr Cooper, shirtless and with
his trousers near his knees and Mr Kouzaris, whose trousers were
also round his thighs.
The court heard there was a trail of blood
spots leading to Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris also still had his
wallet and money on him.
Crime scene investigator Jerry Wagner told the
court that Mr Cooper's wallet had a total of $63.45 (£40) while Mr
Kouzaris's contained $62.05 (£39).
Mr Brodsky said a friend of Mr Tyson's,
Jermaine Bane, would describe seeing him on the night of the
He said that Mr Bane received a call, which he
thought was accidental, from Mr Tyson telling someone there were
two white men walking in the area, but then hung up.
He said Mr Bane would say he heard gunshots
five or 10 minutes later and Mr Tyson called him to ask if he had
When he said "yes" Mr
Tyson told him to go outside and see if there were any bodies.
Mr Brodsky said Mr Bane also saw Mr Tyson with
a 0.22 calibre revolver which he would frequently carry wrapped in
a red bandana.
The court heard from witness Nakiera Keno, aged
21, who was driving in the area when she saw Mr Kouzaris and Mr
Cooper walking in Newtown.
Ms Keno, who had friends in the car with her,
said they had "no shirts, baggy jeans, no shoes" and also saw two
black men who "looked young".
She said the two white men were just standing
"like they were waiting on some drugs or something".
Ms Keno then heard gunshots, prompting her to
turn her music down. She drove back round past the scene, she
said, and saw the two white men on the ground.
Mr Brodsky said that one witness said Mr Cooper
and Mr Kouzaris had pleaded with Mr Tyson to let them go, that
they were drunk and that they were just trying to find their way
He said: "Mr Tyson had boasted to one witness
that he began shooting them both."
Another witness, Marvin Gaines, said Mr Tyson
told him he had put the gun under his house and buried seven shell
casings from that weapon in his yard.
When he asked why, Mr Tyson told him: "Those
two bodies back there, I did that."
Mr Brodsky said police searched Mr Tyson's
bedroom on the evening of 16 April and found a 0.22 calibre
bullet, and that his DNA was found on Mr Cooper's jeans.
Mr Wagner, the crime scene investigator, told
the court he had recovered seven 0.22 calibre bullet casings from
a nearby yard after the shootings.
Carolyn Schlemmer, for the defence, told the
jury: "The evidence in this case will show no murder weapon or a
weapon believed to even be a murder weapon was ever recovered in
She said the gun and bullet casings found were
not linked directly to Mr Tyson but to the people who had given
them to police.
She said a 0.22 calibre gun and 0.22 calibre
bullets were some of the most common in the world.
Friends of Mr Cooper and Mr Kouzaris, Paul
Davies and Joe Hallett, were in court on Thursday, but did not
want to comment.
The trial continues.
Florida teenager accused of killing two
British tourists goes on trial
17, alleged to have shot James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25,
in Sarasota last year
By Richard Luscombe - Guardian.co.uk
March 19, 2012
teenager charged with the murder of two British friends as they
enjoyed a Florida holiday almost a year ago will go on trial on
Monday as prosecutors hope to uncover the truth about the men's
Shawn Tyson, whose
17th birthday is also on Monday, is accused of shooting James
Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, both former students at the
University of Sheffield, during a confrontation in Newtown, a
ghetto in Sarasota, in the early hours of 16 April 2011.
Although Tyson was
arrested and charged soon after the killings, detectives were
unable to establish exactly what led the victims into the
crime-plagued neighbourhood 12 miles from their holiday home in
upmarket Longboat Key after a night out.
Inquiries were hampered by the community's
distrust of the police and an atmosphere of violence and
intimidation, while key eyewitness testimony against Tyson was
secured from a neighbour only after she was moved into a home
outside the area for her own safety.
"Witnesses were very reluctant at first, mostly
because of the fear of retaliation or the no-snitching rule," said
assistant state attorney Karen Fraivillig, who will present the
"But I can't praise the detectives in the case
highly enough. They told me the witnesses knew more than they were
saying and they kept going back until they got them to talk.
"This is about justice for two beautiful
children, bright, athletic, charming young men in the prime of
their life who were killed for no reason."
Tyson, who denies two counts of wilful
premeditated murder, faces a life sentence if convicted. The trial
is expected to last a week and a half. Although he is being tried
as an adult, Florida law prohibits the death penalty for anyone
under 18 at the time of a crime.
Cooper, a part-time tennis coach from Warwick,
and Kouzaris, a seasoned traveller from Northampton, who had
recently spent time in Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador, had been in
the US for about 10 days of their three-week holiday and were
staying at an apartment with Cooper's parents.
They ate a meal together on the evening of 15
April before the two men set off for an evening out in Sarasota,
where they were captured on CCTV drinking and talking to women in
several city centre bars.
Police released images of the pair in a bar
called Smokin' Joes as they tried to piece together details of
what they called the "crucial lost hour" between closing time at
2am and the first 911 call from a Newtown resident at 2.56am
reporting gunfire and "a white dude laid out on the ground".
The first officers to arrive found the friends'
shirtless bodies, each with multiple gunshot wounds, on opposite
sides of the street. One witness reported seeing them running in
separate directions while a neighbour, Wanda Farrior, told police
she saw Tyson clambering through a window into his mother's house
Physical evidence to be presented during the
trial will include bullet casings allegedly buried by the
defendant and later revealed to police by an informant, and text
messages said to have been sent to and from Tyson's mobile phone
immediately after the shootings.
A former friend of the accused, Joshua Bane,
will tell the jury that he helped clean and dispose of the
suspected murder weapon, a .22 calibre pistol that Tyson is
believed to have also used in another crime nine days previously.
Prosecutors scored a significant victory at a
pretrial hearing last week when circuit court judge Rick DeFuria
said he would allow jurors to hear details of an incident on 7
April 2011 in which Tyson is accused of using the same gun to
shoot at the car of a family with whom he was feuding.
None of the victims' parents, Peter and Hazel
Kouzaris and Stan and Sandy Cooper, plan to travel to Florida. Mrs
Kouzaris said last month it was still painful to look at
photographs of her son and that the thought of anyone forgetting
him was unbearable.
But Paul Davies and
Joe Hallett, friends of the men, plan to attend the trial. The two
are co-founders and directors of Always a Chance, a charity set up
in the victims' memory to tackle youth crime in Britain.
Community leaders say the murders have led to
improvements in the Newtown area, including the installation of
video cameras on street corners that they say have helped reduce
"As unfortunate as this was, and as hard as it
was that this happened here, the community has come together and
is working together with a new feeling of optimism," said the Rev
Wade Harvin, chairman of Newtown's community development board.
"People realise that we have to work
collectively with the police to make sure that the crime rate
drops and not live in fear of over-the-top individuals."
Florida teenager charged with killing
British pair 'confessed to cellmate'
Tyson has denied April murder of James Cooper and James Kouzaris
in Newtown, Sarasota
By Richard Luscombe -
June 14, 2011
A youth accused of shooting dead two British holidaymakers in a
crime-ridden Florida neighbourhood confessed to a fellow inmate
shortly after he was arrested, according to newly released court
Shawn Tyson, 16, has
denied killing James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, as they
staggered drunkenly through Newtown, Sarasota, in the early hours
of 16 April after a night out drinking.
But, according to prosecutors, Tyson told the
prisoner: "Yeah, I did it" only 24 hours after the shooting. The
inmate said he asked what had happened and Tyson replied: "It's
trill," – a slang word for "gangster".
In a recorded phone call from the Sarasota
county jail to another witness known only as "brother", Tyson
apparently lamented the discovery by detectives of bullets at his
house of the same calibre used to murder the Britons. "They found
the bullets. That's the only thing that's going to fuck me up," he
told the friend.
The same witness told police Tyson claimed he
approached the Britons from behind after watching them stagger
along the road and that he went to "fire off" at them because he
assumed they were trying to break into a vehicle.
The new details come in about 300 pages of
documents released by the state attorney's office in Sarasota that
set out the largely circumstantial case against Tyson, who has
been in custody for almost two months after being charged as an
adult on two counts of first degree homicide.
Included are witness statements that shed light
for the first time on how Cooper and Kouzaris travelled to The
Courts housing project, seven miles from the upmarket Longboat Key
resort where they were enjoying a three-week holiday with Cooper's
The question had puzzled detectives for weeks
until a taxi driver came forward to report that he remembered
picking up two men "with British accents" at the Smokin' Joes bar
in central Sarasota and driving them to a 7-Eleven late-night
grocery store in Newtown.
Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Cooper, from
Warwick, were caught on CCTV drinking in the bar just before
closing time, about an hour before they were found dead in the
street in Newtown, two miles away, shirtless and with multiple
Medical records released by the Sarasota
coroner, meanwhile, show that the pair, who became friends as
students at the University of Sheffield, had blood alcohol levels
more than three times Florida's legal limit for driving.
Although the documents reveal how the pair got
to Newtown, they appear to stoke further speculation as to what
they were doing there. A neighbour who lives close to the murder
scene allegedly told police that she believed one of the Britons
had previously visited her neighbour's boyfriend.
Another female resident of The Courts, listed
only as a "confidential informant", told detectives that she saw
Tyson leaping in through the open window of his mother's house
within moments of the shooting.
She identified Tyson as one of two people she
saw running away. She said she heard shots then a neighbour told
her that someone had been killed.
Sarasota police, who have previously admitted
they were seeking a second suspect, are investigating another
shooting in Newtown, in which a 21-year-old was killed.
Willie Hadley, 21, who lived less than a mile
from where Cooper and Kouzaris were shot, was gunned down during
the early hours of Monday on Martin Luther Way, five blocks from
the scene of the April shooting. Police called to the scene at 2am
found Hadley, who had been released from jail only a few days
previously, lying dead in the road after local residents reported
Tyson's trial is expected to take place next
year. He faces a probable life sentence if convicted.
Florida suspect in Britons' deaths 'should
have been in custody'
Sarasota paper says
Florida police failed to attend court hearing – Shawn Tyson was
freed hours before James Cooper and James Kouzaris were murdered
By Richard Luscombe - Guardian.co.uk
April 22, 2011
Florida judge warned that a teenager was "a danger to the
community" and should remain in custody, only for a colleague to
free him hours before he is alleged to have shot dead two British
tourists in Sarasota.
Shawn Tyson of
Newtown, Sarasota, was arrested for killing James Cooper, 25, and
James Kouzaris, 24, the day after their bodies were found with
multiple gunshot wounds on a street in the crime-plagued
But it has emerged
that the 16-year-old, who had dropped out of school and is
believed to have had a troubled home life, should not have been
back on the streets at all after an earlier arrest for gun crime.
Detectives failed to appear as ordered at a 15
April hearing into an episode in which Tyson fired a weapon during
a fight, and juvenile bench judge Deno Economou – unaware of the
concerns of Sarasota's chief judge Lee Haworth at an earlier
hearing – released him from jail into the custody of his mother.
It was the last in a
number of "prosecutorial missteps and a series of communication
problems" cited by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper that led
to the fatal confrontation between Tyson and the British friends,
who had been enjoying a night out in the early hours of Saturday
during a three-week holiday in Florida.
Tyson was charged with aggravated assault and
remanded as an adult over the earlier incident, which means there
is now no chance he can be sent to a juvenile facility to await
his formal indictment on the two murder charges in two weeks'
Detectives are still trying to work out what
brought Cooper, of Warwick, and Kouzaris, from Northampton, into
an area of town notorious for gang activity at 3am, but are
working on several theories, including that they took a wrong turn
as they looked for food after leaving a bar, or were ordered there
at gunpoint before being robbed and killed.
According to the Herald-Tribune, Tyson was
first arrested on 7 April for firing a gun into a car at another
youth with whom he had been engaged in a feud. A Newtown resident
told the paper that Tyson and her brother had fallen out and Tyson
waved a revolver at them and threatened to kill them, shortly
"There's continuing potential escalation
between these alleged victims and [Tyson will remain in custody] …
to help defuse this situation, but particularly because of the
danger it presents to the community with a young 16-year-old
handling a firearm," Judge Haworth said at Tyson's initial hearing
on 8 April. He ordered that detectives appear at the hearing
before Judge Economou a week later, but they failed to do so and
prosecutors did not pass on Haworth's warning.
The Sarasota Police department announced it was
no longer talking to reporters, and nobody was available for
comment at the Sarasota courthouse, which was closed for the
Meanwhile, the bodies of the Britons are
believed to be back in the UK after their release by a coroner.
An announcement about funeral arrangements is
Two Britons shot dead during Florida holiday
in notorious gang area
16-year-old on suspicion of murder of James Kouzaris, 24, and
James Cooper, 25, in Newtown, Sarasota
By Richard Luscombe - Guardian.co.uk
April 18, 2011
British holidaymakers have been shot and killed in Florida in what
police believe may have been a botched robbery.
James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25,
former students at the University of Sheffield, were found dead in
Newtown, a crime-ridden neighbourhood of Sarasota, at about 3am on
Police have arrested a 16-year-old on suspicion
of murder but were unable to provide any further details about
what the two friends were doing in the early hours of the morning
in an area of the city notorious for gang activity. "That is one
of the key things we are investigating, just why they were there,"
Captain Paul Sutton of the Sarasota police department told the
"At approximately 3am on 16 April, Sarasota
police officers responded to a 911 call, the caller advised that a
person was lying on the ground covered in blood.
"Officers checking the area located two male
Despite local reports to the contrary, no
bullet casings were found at the scene, Sutton said. Neither of
the victims was carrying a weapon. Additionally, no trace of drugs
nor an abnormally large amount of money was found.
"There is no link between the victims and the
suspect," Sutton said. "A 16-year-old male, a resident of
Sarasota, was arrested on two counts of murder and it's likely
he'll be indicted on those charges as an adult at a later date."
Florida is one of the states that still has the
death penalty on its statutes.
The crime scene is a far cry from the
sugar-sand beaches and luxurious resorts of Longboat Key, 12 miles
away, where police said that Cooper and Kouzaris had been staying.
Newtown, situated on the mainland north of
Sarasota's downtown area, is an economically depressed, social
housing district with high unemployment, a history of gang
violence and a crime rate higher than any other area of the city.
According to his Facebook page, Kouzaris had
spent most of the past few months touring South America, posting
pictures of his travels from Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador.
He returned to the UK at the end of last month
before setting off again a week later to Florida with Cooper, a
part-time tennis coach he befriended when they were students
together at the University of Sheffield.
An acquaintance of Cooper in the UK told the
Guardian: "It's a shock. They were just enjoying a two-week break
away from everything."
The two victims exchanged messages on Facebook
before their trip in which expressed how much they were looking
forward to going to Florida and their holiday.
The British consulate in Miami issued a
statement saying that next of kin had been notified. Officials
from a consular office in Orlando were believed to be heading to
Sarasota to offer assistance.
Police, meanwhile, said a press conference was
scheduled to take place at 10am on Monday. The suspect is
currently being held at the Sarasota county jail.