SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — A friend of the Florida teen accused of killing two British tourists in 2011 said on Monday that the teen shot the men even though they pleaded for their lives, claiming to be lost.
Shawn Tyson, 17, is accused of killing James Kouzaris and James Cooper in April of 2011. He’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder and could face life in prison if convicted.
On Monday, 18-year-old Latrece Washington testified that Tyson told her he saw the two tourists walking through a Sarasota housing project, drunk. Washington testified that Tyson said he intended to rob the two men, but the men said they had no money.
“He said ‘Well since you ain’t got no money I got something for your ass,’” Washington recalled Tyson saying on the day after the killings.
Tyson told Washington that the men begged for their lives and one said, “please let me go home, I’m lost,” she said.
Recounted Washington: “He shot one of them in the side and one of them fell instantly and the other one was crying for his life. He shot him.”
Judge Rick De Furia ruled that TV cameras should not broadcast Washington’s face because of fears for her safety.
As testimony continued Monday in the second week of the trial, a portrait of Tyson began to emerge. He was 16 at the time of the shooting, was in the eighth grade and had a tattoo that said “Savage” on his chest. He and friends — many of whom had criminal histories — repeatedly watched “Shottas,” a 2002 movie about gangsters in Jamaica and Miami.
Kouzaris and Cooper were in Sarasota on a three-week holiday. On April 15, they went to dinner and then had drinks 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.
Also 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” — referring to the two British tourists. Bane described a cracker as a white person. Shortly thereafter, Bane said, he heard gunshots.
Bane and another witness 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.”
Bane’s brother Joshua Bane, 25, also testified. He told the jury that he saw Tyson shoot the .22 at a car on April 7, 2011, about a week before the tourist killings.
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.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.