BREAKING NEWS: Sarasota, Florida: Two British Men On Holiday Shot Dead: UPDATED

18 Apr

Police are investigating after two British men were shot dead while on holiday in Florida.

Two British Friends Shot Dead On Holiday Play video

Police say they found the bodies of James Cooper, 25, and 24-year-old James Kouzaris in the city of Sarasota, on the south-western coast, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The friends, who are former University of Sheffield students, were discovered by officers who were called to a residential street in the north of the city at around 3am.

One man was found lying on the ground outside a government-assisted housing block covered in blood. 

The second victim was discovered moments later, lying 50ft away on the other side of the road.

Both men were pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds, a Sarasota Police spokesman said. Police did not release their home addresses.

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, was on a three-week holiday in Florida staying with Mr Cooper, from Warwick, and his family.

They had been staying on the affluent island city of Longboat Key, about 12 miles from the down-market area where they were killed.

Captain Paul Sutton, of Sarasota police, said there was no known association between the suspect and the victims.

The area where they were found is known to be largely residential and not frequented by tourists.

“We are still investigating why they would have been in this area,” Capt Sutton said.

“It is very unusual to find tourists or visitors in this area. It is a residential neighbourhood with no shops and no bars. We do not know what brought them here at 3am.”

The local Herald-Tribune newspaper has reported that Sarasota police said the men were not carrying any drugs but would not confirm whether they had any money or weapons.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the deaths of two British nationals on holiday in Sarasota on April 16.

“Next of kin have been informed and consular staff are providing assistance.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Kouzaris, known as “Jam”, on Facebook.

Lynn Hucker wrote: “To a beautiful cousin who I will never forget. Always happy and full of life. You will be so sadly missed James.”

Another post from a friend called Ben Stacey read: “RIP Jam, absolute legend. It was an honour mate, I was so looking forward to seeing you again in Miami. The month travelling with you was some of the best times I’ve had and was so thankful I met you. Rated you very highly XO”

Ed Ferrari, Research Fellow from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Town and Regional Planning, said: “It is with immense sadness that I learned today that one of our former students, James Kouzaris, was tragically killed in Florida.

“James was committed to his studies and was a skilled Planner but, more than that, he was a friend to many in our department.

“His positive outlook and humour were infectious and he involved himself totally in the life of our department and University. He was just the sort of student any lecturer would hope to have in their class.”

Mr Cooper worked as a tennis coach for a company based at the University of Warwick.

His former lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s Management School, Dr Jon Burchell,said: “During his time in Sheffield, James was an enthusiastic and hard working student, and was popular among his peers.

“He had a good sense of humour and a range of plans for what he wanted to do after graduation. I am immensely shocked and saddened by the news and send our deepest condolences to his family.”

NEWS UPDATE:

Detectives in Florida are investigating what led two British holidaymakers from a night out in the centre of Sarasota to the deprived, crime-ridden district where they were shot dead.

Police probe Britons’ mystery trip Enlarge photo

The bullet-ridden bodies of James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were discovered on a street in the city’s run-down district of Newtown at about 3am on Saturday.

Detectives from Sarasota Police Department said it was “very unusual” to find tourists in the neighbourhood – a housing project about 12 miles away from the upmarket island city of Longboat Key where the university friends were staying.

Shawn Tyson, a 16-year-old juvenile who lives close to the murder scene, is being held by police on suspicion of two counts of murder.

The teenager was previously arrested on April 7 for aggravated assault with a handgun, reportedly for firing into a car, police said.

Mr Kouzaris, from Northampton, was on a three-week holiday in Florida with Mr Cooper and his family, from Warwick.

The pair had been on a night out visiting bars in downtown Sarasota on the Friday evening, before being found dead hours later in a narrow one-way street 20 blocks away.

Captain Paul Sutton said detectives were “examining all theories” and “keeping an open mind” as to how and why the friends came to be in the “no-go” area.

He said the Britons may have befriended someone who gave them a lift, could have got a cab detectives have not yet traced, or may have walked.

“Anything you could imagine is a possibility,” he said.

Sarasota police chief Mikel Hollaway said detectives had their “suspicions (about what they were doing there) but at this time it would be unfair to state those”. He said he believed the victims were there of their own volition.

Capt Sutton said there was no known link between the suspect and the victims.

“It is very unusual to find tourists or visitors in this area. It is a residential neighbourhood with no shops and no bars. We do not know what brought them here at 3am,” he said.

Asked whether there could be more arrests in the case, Capt Sutton said: “We’re looking at the possibility. More than one person ran when the shots were fired.

“Are other people involved or is it people who just happened to be there?”

(Editor’s note: see comment).

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2 Responses to “BREAKING NEWS: Sarasota, Florida: Two British Men On Holiday Shot Dead: UPDATED”

  1. Sandy 1AprilJ2011 at 6:14 pm #

    I live in Sarasota, I fail to see what these two men would be doing in the Newtown area after dark. The area is a known for it’s high crime rate and you can tell when you go down into that area that it is a far cry from the million dollar mansions of Longboat Key.

    Everyone keeps tippy toeing around the fact that it is a well known drug area, you don’t accidentally find yourself, on foot, in the middle of Newtown. If these two guys ended up there, they were not site seeing!!

    The pizza place I worked for in High school was forbidden to enter certain streets in that area after dark!!

    • Asia 1AprilJ2011 at 6:33 am #

      Our family lives south of Sarasota. Longboat Key is not close to the Newtown area. I am not going to judge what they were doing or why they were there. No one deserves to be killed for being anywhere. This sixteen year old should not be judged by the area he has resided in, but by the environment his parents afforded him. One does not have to reside in a mansion to know good from bad. His parental upbringing or lack of began long before he took a gun and killed two young men. This could have happened anywhere and it does. Everyday young people of all races are murdered by the uncontrolled wonton desire to be noticed. Now two young promising men are dead, a sixteen year old will spend the rest of his life in prison and the systematic spinning of the wheels of injustice will prevail. The entitlement system has failed miserably. Maybe if his mother took responsiblity for bringing this child into the world and stood on her own two feet, maybe this kid would have stood a chance.

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