The parents of two British tourists who were shot to death in a robbery in Florida in April 2011 have criticized President Barack Obama for failing to respond to three letters they have sent to the White House. Shawn Tyson, a 17-year-old black teen, was convicted on March 29 in connection with the killing and will serve a mandatory life sentence for the killing of James Kouzaris and James Cooper of the United Kingdom. Tyson showed no emotion upon receiving the sentence, for which there is no chance of parole.
Speaking outside the court room in Sarasota, Florida, two close friends of the deceased said there was apparently “no political value” on the part of the Obama administration to respond to letters sent to the White House. Paul Davies and Joe Hallett, who attended the eight-day trial, described the "living hell" they have experienced since the murders. Davies and Hallett lashed out at President Obama and alleged that the deaths of Kouzaris and Cooper was "not worthy of ten minutes of his time." Davies said "We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or indeed, President Obama himself.”
The rebuke follows President Obama's intromission into the February 2012 shooting in Florida of a young black teenager by a neighbourhood watch captain. The president expressed his condolences to the parents of Trayvon Martin, saying that if he had a son he would look like the slain teen. The slaying of Trayvon Martin has sparked nationwide protests claiming he was victim of a racist attack.The alleged assailant in Martin's death has not been charged. He claims that he was attacked first and used Florida's 'stand your ground' law to shoot in self defense.
Referring to the father of the slain James Kouzaris, Davies said “Mr. Kouzaris has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply,” adding "It would perhaps appear that Mr Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worthy of ten minutes of his time." The rebuke of President Obama was made on behalf of Cooper's parents Stanley and Sandy, and Peter and Hazel Kouzaris by Davies in a statement read outside the courtroom. In a statement to the court, Hallet told Tyson, "Imagine them being killed. Now try to imagine that they died because someone crept up on them and shot them numerous times for no good reason. Welcome to our world. Every night you go to sleep, every morning you wake up, I want you to think of my friends who you murdered. Their images will be imprinted on your conscience up until your very last breath in life."
Tyson, who bears the word ‘Savage’ tattooed on his chest, shot the two men in April 2011 even though they both begged for their lives. Cooper and Kouzaris were both 25 years old and had been friends during their university studies. Reveling in the south Florida community, drink and an ignorance of their surroundings brought them into a neighbourhood known as The Courts, where the then 16-year-old Tyson was waiting. When Tyson spotted them stumbling through The Courts, he demanded money from them. When he was told they did not have any, he shot both of them through the heart. When the men told Tyson they had no money, he responded “If you ain’t got no money — I got something for you ass,” before shooting them both. Tyson, who turned 17 on the first day of the trial, told a girlfriend that Cooper was “crying for his life” before he was shot.
In a statement to the court, Hazel Kouzaris spoke of her loss. “I can't feel sorry for the murderer but I do have some sympathy for his mother. Like me she will not have any grandchildren from her son." Cooper’s parents said "Anyone who has lost a child will know there are no words which can express the despair, disbelief and desolation. We will miss him every minute of every day in a home that now feels empty."
The jury deliberated just two hours to deliver the verdict in the case, However, speaking outside the court, Tyson's father Tyronne said that the trial was unfair. He will appeal the sentence. "To the families of Cooper and Kouzaris, our deepest sympathies go out to them. Nothing we say will ever bring their kids back to them,” he said. "Three families' lives have been destroyed. Two will never see their children again and one family's child just lost his freedom for the rest of his life."
Tyson, a high-school drop-out, had been released from prison in error the day before the murders, after he riddled a car carrying a group of teenage girls with gunfire. While local officials had decided that Tyson was too dangerous to release, the message was not passed to the prosecutor involved in his case, and he was freed after a three-minute hearing. During the trial, witnesses said Tyson boasted that he had spotted the clearly drunk British friends weaving their way through the neighbourhood, apparently looking for an all-night restaurant, before confronting them.
Cooper and Kouzaris were found shirtless and with their trousers pulled down in a pool of blood – which police testified is typical of street robberies and done to stop victims from running away. Tyson’s DNA was later found on the front of Cooper’s jeans. When they died, the two young men each had approximately $50 in their pockets along with mobile phones and a digital camera.