Shawn Tyson was a seventeen year old from Florida who murdered two British tourists who made the mistake of walking into the wrong part of town. According to court documents Shawn Tyson walked towards the two victims, James Kouzaris and James Cooper, with a gun drawn.
The teen killer would demand money from the two men and when they had no money to give Shawn Tyson would shoot and kill both men. Shawn Tyson would be arrested shortly after and be convicted of the two murders and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Shawn Tyson 2021 Information
|Name:||TYSON, SHAWN A|
|Initial Receipt Date:||07/11/2016|
|Current Facility:||GRACEVILLE C.F.|
|Current Release Date:||SENTENCED TO LIFE|
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Two British tourists shot dead on a Florida holiday were murdered because they claimed they had no money to give their attacker, a court has heard.
James Kouzaris, 24, and his friend James Cooper, 25, were killed after straying into a rundown area of Sarasota after a night out drinking in April last year.
Police found the pair shirtless and with their trousers around their thighs, both dead from multiple gunshot wounds, prosecutor Ed Brodsky told the jury on the first day of evidence at their alleged killer’s trial in Sarasota.
Shawn Tyson, 17, who denies two counts of murder, later boasted to friends about how he had “done” the pair, and hid a gun and spent bullet casings to cover up his involvement, Brodsky said.
Tyson sat impassively in the dock as the assistant state attorney described how the Britons had wandered into Sarasota’s depressed Newtown neighbourhood shortly before 3am on 16 April, less than an hour after leaving a nightclub in the city centre. Cooper, a tennis coach from Warwick, and Kouzaris, from Northampton, were trying to make their way back to their holiday home on Longboat Key, seven miles away, when Tyson stopped them, prosecutors believe.
“He and another male saw the two men as they walked by and decided to rob them,” Brodsky said. “When he confronts the victims they plead with Shawn Tyson to let them go, that they were drunk and they were just trying to find their way home. They then tell Shawn Tyson that they don’t have any money to give him.”
Brodsky said Tyson then told the friends: “Well, since you ain’t got no money, then I have something for your ass,” and began shooting.
Police found the bodies, on opposite sides of the street in a public housing complex named The Courts.
“In a grassy patch they would find James Cooper, clutching his shirt in his hand, his blue jeans pulled down to about mid-thigh level,” Brodsky said. “Police would also find that James Cooper still had his wallet in his possession, he still had his money in his possession, he still had his cellphone and his camera in his possession. Directly across the street the police would find the body of James Kouzaris with his pants pulled down to the thigh level. As they found James Cooper, they would find James Kouzaris had his wallet and he had his money still in his possession.”
Tyson, meanwhile, had jumped through a window back into his mother’s house nearby, Brodsky said an eye-witness would later tell the court. He said other witnesses often saw Tyson in the neighbourhood with a revolver he kept hidden in a red bandana. Cooper was shot four times with a .22 calibre weapon, the fatal shot passing through his chest and lung before lodging in his heart.
Kouzaris was shot twice in the back, with one of the shots perforating his spleen, diaphragm, lung and heart.
Tyson, who was 16 at the time of the killings, faces a life sentence without the possibility of parole if he is convicted on two counts of wilful premeditated murder at a trial expected to last until the middle of next week. Although he is being tried as an adult, Florida law prohibits the death penalty for anyone under 18.
In his opening remarks, Brodsky said the case was about “two different sets of boys, men, who seized opportunities”.
“On 16 April 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,” he said.
The victims, who became friends as students at the University of Sheffield, were well travelled and were in the second week of a three-week holiday with Cooper’s parents. Kouzaris had just spent several months in South America.
They all ate a meal together before the pair set off for a night out, and were captured on CCTV in several Sarasota bars before a last sighting at the Gator Club at about 2am.
Public defender Carolyn Schlemmer said Tyson did not murder James Cooper and James Kouzaris and claimed that witnesses had been enticed to give evidence against him.
She said that the gun used to kill them was never recovered and claimed that bullet casings later found by detectives were not linked directly to Tyson.
“You will hear about several witnesses, you will hear about their deals, their benefits, what they got from this case, promises made to them,” she said. “You will hear pressures and threats used against these witnesses by the Sarasota police department and the state’s attorney’s office.”
The first witness to give evidence, Trevor Cliburn, told the court he was staying with a friend in the area. He said he heard a voice shout “yo”, then looked out of the window to see two white men walking down the street.
“They both had no shirts on, they were visibly drunk, they were staggering. They were swaying from side to side, they couldn’t walk in a straight line because they were so drunk, they were just staggering.”
He said he saw one of the men hit the spoiler of his car. He then spotted two figures standing in the darkness. “They were just standing there watching the two guys walk by.” He said they crouched down to avoid being seen. Cliburn said moments later he heard gunshots.
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A man has been re-sentenced for murdering two British tourists in Florida five years ago.
Shawn Tyson was found guilty of killing friends James Cooper, 25, of Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, and James Kouzaris, 24, from Northampton, in April 2011.
Circuit Judge Charles E Roberts told the Florida court Tyson “killed in cold blood two men who posed no threat”.
Tyson’s earlier conviction was thrown out in 2014 because he was 16 when the crime was committed.
Sentencing Tyson to two life terms at Lynn N Silvertooth Judicial Center on 8 June, Mr Roberts said: “The defendant’s motive was robbery, but when he realised he would not get what he wanted, he made the conscious decision to kill both victims.”
In September 2014, the appeal court upheld Tyson’s conviction but his sentence was thrown out because he was a juvenile when the crime was committed.
Mr Roberts acknowledged there were special considerations when sentencing a juvenile on murder charges, but added: “On April 16, 2011, Shawn Tyson killed in cold blood two young men who posed no threat.”
The killings impacted not only the victims’ families but also the community, the judge said, stating that witnesses were afraid to assist with the investigation.
“This was not a spur-of-the-moment, one-shot event,” Roberts said. “I have not been persuaded, based on everything I’ve heard, that he can be rehabilitated.”
A spokesperson from Lynn N Silvertooth Judicial Center said law changes made by the Florida Supreme Court mean the “juvenile homicide offender cannot be sentenced to life without parole”, so his case will be up for review after 25 years.
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Shawn Tyson is currently incarcerated at the Graceville Correctional Facility in Florida
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Shawn Tyson is serving two life without parole sentences