- Shawn Tyson, 17, accused of murdering two holidaymakers in April 2011
- James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, found shot dead in street
Daily Mail Reporter
15:56, 22 March 2012
17:25, 22 March 2012
Accused: Shawn Tyson is on trial for the murders of British tourists James Cooper and James Kouzaris
A teenager accused of killing two British tourists in Florida gunned them down after they said they did not have any money to hand over, a court has heard.
Shawn Tyson, who turned 17 on Monday, is said to have gone to rob James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, in April last year.
But when the pair, who had drunkenly stumbled into the rundown Newtown neighbourhood of Sarasota, said they did not have any cash with them he shot them dead, prosecutors alleged.
Tyson faces a life sentence if convicted, but will not face the death penalty because of his age.
Sarasota heard how the two British holidaymakers were dining and drinking in the city’s downtown with Cooper’s parents on the night of April 15.
The entire party was staying at a Longboat Key beach condo.
Cooper’s parents went back to the condo in a car and urged the two young men to take a cab back home.
The pair went to two bars and left on foot after several drinks.
But shortly before 3am, they ended up in a crime-ridden neighbourhood more than a mile from the bars. Witnesses said they saw Cooper and Kouzaris walking shirtless and stumbling through the neighbourhood.
They also reported that they were being followed by two black men, one with a red bandanna around part of his face.
buddies: James Kouzaris (right) and James Cooper (left) became friends after meeting at university
Prosecutor Ed Brodsky said Tyson told a friend that the men were lost and that he then tried to rob them. The tourists told Tyson they did not have any money and pleaded for their lives.
Brodsky said Tyson told his friend: ‘Since you ain’t got no money, then I have something for your a**.’
The tourists’ bodies were found shirtless on the street. Both men still had their wallets and did have money. Cooper also had a mobile telephone and camera in his trouser pocket.
Authorities later found that Kouzaris’ blood alcohol level was 0.243 and Cooper’s was 0.214 – well past Florida’s legal limit for intoxication, which is 0.08.
Defence lawyer Carolyn Schlemmer said
during her opening statement that there is nothing to tie Tyson to the
shootings as no murder weapon was ever recovered.
She said many of the people slated to
testify against Tyson were either pressured by authorities, made deals
with authorities in exchange for information on Tyson, or were
unreliable drug users and convicted felons. Other witnesses lied to law
enforcement, Schlemmer said.
The final picture: James Kouzaris photographed earlier on in the night that he was killed in the notorious district of Newtown
CCTV: These images show the pair drinking in a bar shortly before they were both killed
Victim: James Cooper pictured having fun in a bar just hours before he was gunned down alongside his friend
‘No witnesses will testify that they saw Tyson shoot Cooper and Kouzaris,’ Schlemmer told the jury. ‘Keep an open mind.’
But, in opening the prosecution case today after three days of jury selection at Sarasota Court, Assistant State Attorney Brodsky said: ‘The reason you are here today and what this case is about are the tragic events that occurred just shortly less than a year ago.
‘On April 16, 2011, at approximately
three in the morning, two British men who were here on vacation would
find that they would die at the hands of gunfire.’
at Tyson, who wore an orange shirt and tie, he said: ‘The evidence will
conclusively demonstrate to you that this man right here is responsible
for the deaths of James Cooper and James Kouzaris.
‘You will find that this case is about two different sets of boys, men, who seized opportunities.
‘The [victims] travelled approximately
4,500 miles to be here and you are going to hear that just three days
prior to James Cooper’s death he had just turned 25 years old.
Kouzaris was 24 years old and the evening leading to this event they
were with James Cooper’s parents, they had travelled abroad with James
Cooper’s mother, James Cooper’s father and a friend of theirs.
you are going to learn that at approximately 2.56am in the morning,
that residents and neighbours in the Newtown area would report hearing
between six and eight gunshots ring out in the neighbourhood.’
The court heard that autopsies showed
Cooper was shot four times – three of the bullets went straight through
his body, the fatal one into his chest, perforating his left lung and
ending up in his heart.
Kouzaris had been shot twice in the
back and was killed by a bullet which perforated his spleen, diaphragm,
left lung and his heart. The bullets were from a 0.22 calibre weapon.
Brodsky said one witness, who was staying with his girlfriend, would describe hearing noise outside at about 2.45am. He said: ‘He saw two white males walking eastbound down Carver or Gore Court.
‘He would describe the two men as
being shirtless, he would describe the men as appearing to be drunk
because they stumbled and he would describe that as the two men walked
down the street that he saw two black males crouching and watching them
as they walked by.
Gunned down: James, 24, from Northampton (right) and James, 25, from Warwickshire, were murdered during a holiday in Florida with family and friends
‘He will then tell you that approximately one minute or so later he heard gunshots ring out and that several minutes thereafter the police would arrive.’
Another witness, who was driving with her girl friends, described seeing two white men, shirtless, and two black men standing in front of them.
Brodsky said a friend of Tyson’s, Jermaine Bane, would describe seeing the teenager on the night of the murders.
He received a call from him, but thought it was accidental as he heard Tyson telling someone there were two white men walking in the area, but then hung up.
He said about five or ten minutes later he heard gunshots, and shortly afterwards Tyson called him and asked if he had heard shots. When he said yes, the teenager told him to go outside and see if there were any bodies out there.
‘He will also describe Shawn Tyson as sounding out of breath and that he was breathing heavy’, Brodsky said.
Murder scene: James Cooper and James Kouzaris were found dead on this one way street which is off the usual tourist trail
Bane will also describe seeing Tyson with a revolver, which he would frequently carry wrapped in a red bandanna, he added.
Another witness, who lived opposite Tyson, described seeing the teenager jump into the window of his apartment shortly after the gunshots.
The prosecutor told the court that Tyson told another witness he had ‘done ’em’, referring to the two Britons. And witness Marvin Gaines said Tyson told him he had put the gun under his house and, when he asked why, he told him: ‘Those two bodies back there, I did that’.
Gaines said he later gave the gun to Bane and buried seven shell casings from that weapon in his yard. Brodsky said police searched Tyson’s bedroom on the evening of April 16, and found a 0.22 calibre bullet.
After his arrest, he was recorded as telling his half-brother: ‘They found the bullets, it’s the only thing that’s going to f*** me up.’ Brodsky said Tyson’s DNA was also found on Cooper’s jeans. The trial continues.