| 10.9°C Dublin

Holidaymaker shot dead in Florida watched his friend’s murder and cried for his life, court told


James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

Shawn Tyson is facing two first-degree murder charges (AP)

Shawn Tyson is facing two first-degree murder charges (AP)


James Cooper and James Kouzaris were shot dead in Sarasota, Florida, last April

A BRITISH tourist cried for his life as his friend was shot, then was gunned down himself, a court has heard.

Shawn Tyson, who is accused of killing James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25, allegedly told a friend that he tried to rob them, but when they did not have any money, he shot one first, then the other.

Latrece Washington, 18, said Tyson told her he told the men that as they did not have any money, he had "something for your ass".

Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, and Mr Cooper, from Hampton Lucy, Warwick, were gunned down after they drunkenly walked into a public housing project known as The Courts in the early hours of April 16.

They were found shirtless with their trousers round their thighs, but still had their wallets and a small amount of money on them.

Tyson, 17, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Ms Washington, who was 17 at the time, yesterday told the court that on April 16 last year, Tyson told her he had shot the men.

She said he described trying to rob, then killing, the men.

"He was like, 'last night around 3am, there was two guys walking and it looked like they were going in people's cars.

"He said he was with somebody and they wanted to rob them.

"He said that they were going to rob them and they were drunk.

"He said, 'well since you ain't got no money, I got something for your ass'.

"That's when he was like he 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."

Ms Washington said Tyson told her the men had pleaded with him, saying "please let me go home", and "I'm drunk".

She said he also told her he had to find somewhere to hide the gun and planned to give it to his friend Marvin Gaines.

The prosecution is expected to finish its case this afternoon. Witnesses will include Mr Gaines.

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

He said on April 7 - the day Tyson was arrested - he saw him shoot at a car, and on the same day threaten to shoot at two girls in a car.

After the murders of Mr Kouzaris and Mr Cooper, Bane saw Tyson, who lifted up his shirt to reveal the pistol and a red bandana.

He told the court Tyson said: "clap clap clap", a phrase from a film called Top Shotters, and said in the film the phrase meant: "It's a shootout, somebody gets shot."

Bane told the court that Gaines - whose house Tyson allegedly hid the gun under, and in whose yard seven bullet casings were buried - gave the gun to him to clean and sell.

He said he and Tyson's brother Nate Wilson later sold the gun for 50 dollars (£31) and spent the money on marijuana.

The court heard Bane tried to track the gun down, but did not manage to. The murder weapon has never been recovered.

Bane's brother Jermaine, 21, said he received several phone calls from Tyson before and after the shootings.

Before the shooting, he heard Tyson on the phone say: "Who are those crackers walking past the park?" but did not think he meant to call him.

He said after the murders, Tyson called him and asked "repeatedly" if he would go out and see if the people were dead, but he refused.

Later that day, when police arrived to search Tyson's house, he said he saw Tyson throw something into a friend's car.

Jermaine originally told police he did not know anything about what had happened because he did not want "the image of being a snitch", he said.

The court heard a charge of carrying a concealed weapon was reduced in seriousness in exchange for giving evidence in the Tyson trial.