Mugshot of Shawn Tyson who killed the British pair
5:27am UK, Thursday March 29, 2012
The Florida school dropout who murdered British tourists James Kouzaris and James Cooper was picked up from prison by his mother just 24 hours before the killings.
Shawn Tyson was aged 16 when he gunned down the pair in a housing estate in the Newtown area of Sarasota last April.
Emotionless throughout the trial, Tyson watched proceedings without reacting to the evidence being given, often by his friends.
His mother Kenyatta Whitfield, a single mother-of-four, said she had believed her son had potential.
He excelled in sport, playing American football, and she said he could have been one of the best players in the area.
But all that changed when he dropped out of high school, and spent his time hanging out around the courts with older friends, where he was often seen with a gun.
Around his 16th birthday, Tyson had a tattoo put across his chest saying “savage”.
Tyson had the word ‘savage’ tattooed across his chest on his 16th birthday
A day before he shot the Britons, he was released from prison after serving time for shooting at a car.
On the first day of his trial for the killings, Tyson turned 17. He is already a father himself but is unlikely to see his child as he starts a life behind bars.
His mother said she raised Tyson as a single parent, but added: “His father has always been in his life.”
For Captain Paul Sutton, from Sarasota Police Department, Tyson’s situation is all too common, and the product of a combination of factors in the teenager’s upbringing and situation.
“Fortunately for us, murders are very rare so you can’t just say that if you have this, this and this, there will always be a murder,” he said.
“But there are some factors in this case that you find in a lot of crimes.
“Shawn was 15 or 16 years old at the time, he had already dropped out of school and certainly there is a correlation between a lack of education and the likelihood of being involved in crime.
“He did live in a low-income neighbourhood and he was being raised by a single parent – having one parent versus two certainly raises the chance of someone being involved in crime.
“Young people who do not continue their education, who drop out of school, are more likely to get involved in crime.”
But he said that did not mean there was no hope for people in Tyson’s situation.
“We see some of the elements potentially involved in this case, but none are a predictor.
“There are other people who are raised in this exact same neighbourhood under very similar circumstances and they came forward and provided information that led to Shawn’s arrest.”