SARASOTA -- One frame shows British tourist James Thomas Kouzaris, 24, and fellow Brit James Cooper, 25, talking to a woman with blonde hair who is laughing.
Another frame shows Kouzaris and Cooper chatting with two women seated on chairs around a tall bar table.
These frames, captured on surveillance equipment from Smokin’ Joes on Main Street in Sarasota late Friday and early Saturday, may hold the key to helping police understand what Kouzaris and Cooper may have been planning for the rest of their evening and why they later ended up in Newtown about a mile away.
The pair was discovered dead in the road on Carver Court in Newtown at about 3 a.m. Saturday, about one hour after the bars closed. They were shot multiple times, said Capt. Paul Sutton of the Sarasota Police Department.
Never miss a local story.
By Tuesday afternoon, when the pictures were first emailed to news outlets, some of the bar patrons had called Detective Johnathan Todd, the lead investigator on the case, with information. The police are working on some leads.
“We want people to know that in no shape or form do we think the women seen in the photos are in any way related to the 16-year-old we have arrested,” Sutton said.
Shawn Tyson, who just turned 16, lives in the 1700 block of Bethune Court in Newtown. He was arrested at about 3 a.m. Sunday and has been charged with two counts of murder.
Right now, there are no other suspects, Sutton added.
Tyson has been appointed a public defender and could be held up to 21 days as a juvenile before the courts have to decide if he should be tried as an adult, Sutton said.
Camera may hold clues
A digital camera found at the crime scene contains photos taken at Smokin’ Joes, which led police to the surveillance video, Sutton said. Police say the camera shows the two men also visited The Gator Club in Sarasota. Police said there was no surveillance video at that club.
“They had no car and they were doing a night on the town,” Sutton said. “It’s very likely they went to other places also. We are interested in anyone who spoke to them late Friday and early Saturday.”
Sutton said he has heard the rumors that perhaps the men were seeking drugs or sex when they left the bar.
Although police are looking at all possibilities, there are others, Sutton said.
The men were both fit. One was a tennis coach. The other was a world traveler who hiked.
It is possible the men left Main Street at 2 a.m. and walked 20 blocks north just to get exercise. That would work with the time line, Sutton said. Police checked and found the men didn’t ride in a second cab.
If they were confronted by a robber, it is possible they either ran or resisted and were shot, he said.
“There could be a lot of scenarios but I will give you a hypothetical,” Sutton said. “Let’s say someone made an attempt to rob them and they didn’t cooperate. The fact that they were discovered with their wallets on them is consistent. If you shoot someone and people come out of their homes to see what has happened, you don’t have the chance to pick up their wallets because witnesses are there.”
The men had enough money in their wallets to get a taxi back to Longboat Key, where they were staying with Cooper’s parents in a condo complex at 6860 Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Cooper’s parents and the victims were vacationing in Florida for three weeks. Coopers’ parents have returned to England, Sutton said.
Earlier reports that shell casings were found at the crime scene are incorrect, Sutton said Tuesday.
“There can be two reasons why there were no shell casings,” Sutton said. “Either they were picked up or the weapon did not eject them, such as a revolver.”
Rumors that the men were shot in the back will not be confirmed or denied at this time, Sutton said. But there is evidence the men were attempting to run from a situation, Sutton added.
Other Brits not convinced
The tourists’ killing was a topic of discussion Tuesday at Coach & Horses British Pub & Restaurant, a British-themed establishment at the southeast corner of Lockwood Ridge Road and University Parkway in Sarasota.
British ex-patriots Stuart and Rosemary Dalgleish, who are from Southport near Lancashire and have lived in the U.S. for five years, don’t necessarily agree with the theory that the victims were walking and were robbed.
“My gut feeling is that the boys could have been seeking female companionship,” Stuart Dalgleish said. “Here they are, two young men on holiday, swinging a loose leg, you know.”
“No, they were sportsmen,” Rosemary Dalgleish said. “I don’t agree.”
Rosemary Dalgleish’s theory is that they had a bit of a disagreement with someone in Smokin’ Joe’s who knew Tyson.
Melissa Summers, a bartender and artist at Coach & Horses and a 2007 graduate of Booker High School’s performing arts program, said she grew to adore Newtown and its people. She said it would be unimaginable the victims would be shot without provocation.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Summers said. “It doesn’t add up. In Newtown, what you give is what you get.”
Summers has her own idea about the tragedy.
“One thing about English people is that they have a witty sense of humor,” Summers said. “I mean they can be very cocky. In Newtown, people are very blunt. You don’t want to be cocky in Newtown. You don’t want to project a radical vibe.”
Craig Faanes, who has been to Britain seven times and is a regular at Coach & Horses, believes the victims met someone at the Main Street bars who offered more drinks in Newtown.
“I’ve done stupid things like that,” Faanes said. “You meet someone in a bar and off you go with them. But, in this case, something bad happened. I think perhaps they were robbery targets and it ended very badly.”
Those who met Cooper and Kouzaris or who know something about the case are asked to call Detective Todd at (941) 954-7091.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.