Florida Shooting: Shawn Tyson Guilty Of Murdering Brits James Cooper And James Kouzaris

Huffington Post UK  |  By   |  Posted: 28/03/2012 22:08 Updated: 29/03/2012 11:14

Shawn Tyson

A 17-year-old American has been handed two life sentences after being found guilty of shooting dead two British tourists in Florida last year.

Shawn Tyson was found guilty of two counts of first degree murder after a trial at Sarasota County Courthouse.

The killer, who sports a tattoo of the word "savage" on his chest, will spend his life in prison without parole after being convicted of two counts of first degree murder. Tyson, who has just turned 17, avoided the death penalty because of his age.

It took the jury of eight women and four men about two hours to convict Tyson of murder in the first degree of both men.

The teenager, wearing an orange shirt and brown tie, sat emotionless as the verdict was read out to the court, as did his mother Kenyatta Whitfield, in the public gallery.

The teenager, who was 16 at the time of the murders, did not give evidence in the case, which opened last Thursday, and the defence called just one witness.

Above: James Cooper and James Kouzaris on the night they were killed.


The families of Cooper and Kouzaris said in a statement that Shawn Tyson was “evil”, and that they had been given “a life sentence when our sons were so brutally and needlessly taken from us.

"Ours is a life sentence, with no chance of parole from a broken heart, and a shattered soul”.

"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."

Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Cooper, drunkenly walked into The Court in the early hours of 16 April.

They were confronted by Tyson, who tried to rob them, then when they had no money, told them: "Well since you ain't got no money, I got something for your ass".

The men pleaded to go home, saying they were drunk, but the teenager, then 16, shot first one of them, then the other.

When they were found, both still had their wallets and cash - Cooper had $63.45, while Kouzaris had $62.05.

Tyson boasted to friend Latrece Washington that one of the victims was "crying for his life", and he had shot him and "emptied the clip on him".

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.

Gaines said Tyson gave him seven 0.22 calibre shell casings to bury in his backyard, as well as a gun.

Gaines later gave the gun to friend Jermaine Bane, who sold it for 50 dollars.

After he was threatened with a charge of accessory to murder, Mr Gaines led police to where the casings were buried. The murder weapon has never been found.

Jermaine Bane said a series of calls were made around the time of the shots and in one, heard Tyson mention two "crackers", or white men, walking in the area.

Bane's brother Joshua Bane, 25, who avoided 10 years in prison in exchange for his evidence as part of a plea deal, said he regularly saw Tyson with a gun.

He saw Tyson after the murders, when the teenager lifted up his shirt to reveal the pistol and a red bandana.

Joshua Bane told the court Tyson said: "clap clap clap", a phrase taken from the film Top Shotters, meaning a "shootout".

Bane said he was given the gun by Marvin Gaines. He cleaned it and, with Tyson's brother Nate Wilson, sold it for $50.

Tyson was arrested on 7 April - nine days before the killings - for shooting at a car.

On that same day, Jessica Cunningham said he pointed a gun at her and her niece, saying: "I'll kill both of you bitches."

He was released on 15 April - but less than 24 hours later had killed the two British men.

After the murders Tyson was arrested and in a phone call to his half brother from prison on 17 April, was recorded saying police had found "the bullets" which could "f*** him up".

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