Trial Continues of Sarasota Teen Accused of Double Murder

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A friend of the teen accused of gunning down two British tourists a year ago took the witness stand Monday and said he felt horrible about being a “snitch.”

Shawn Tyson, 17, is accused of killing James Kouzaris and James Cooper in April of 2011.

This is the second week of Tyson’s trial. He’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.

On Monday, Jermaine Bane said Tyson accidentally called him the night of the slayings and Bane heard Tyson say to someone “Who are those crackers walking past the park” — allegedly referring to the two British tourists. Bane described a cracker as a white person. Shortly thereafter, Bane said, he heard gunshots.

On April 15, 2011, Kouzaris and Cooper were dining and drinking in downtown Sarasota.

The pair went to two bars and left on foot early in the morning of April 16 after several drinks. They ended up in the Newtown neighborhood known for its high crime activity more than a mile from downtown. It’s unclear why the men ended up there. But witnesses say they saw Cooper and Kouzaris walking shirtless and stumbling through the neighborhood — and that they were being followed by two men, one with a red bandanna around part of his face.

Prosecutors are trying to link Tyson to the shootings by showing he had a friend bury .22-caliber bullets in a yard. That was the same caliber of ammunition used to kill Cooper, 25, and Kouzaris, 24.

Defense attorneys contend there is no evidence linking Tyson to the bullets and that witnesses tying him to the scene are not credible.

Bane said Monday that he saw Tyson with a .22 caliber revolver prior to the April 16 shootings.

Bane also told the jury of nine women and five men that he initially didn’t help police in the case. But in May of 2011, Bane was charged with carrying a concealed weapon — a felony — and he eventually told authorities what he knew about the tourist shootings. Bane said his own charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and 11 months probation in exchange for cooperating.

Bane said in court that people have called him a “snitch,” which is a derogatory term for someone who cooperates with police.

“I figured they knew I knew something,” he said of the police. “I couldn’t hold back.”

Two of Bane’s brothers are also expected to testify this week.

Authorities say it was initially difficult to get people in this case to reveal details about the shootings — many of the witnesses were friends of Tyson’s.

On Friday, Tyson’s sister was arrested and charged with retaliating against a witness in connection with comments she made on Facebook to a woman who testified earlier in the week.

Tyson is being held at the Sarasota County Jail without bail.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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