Officer suspended for joking about homicide

/ Source: The Associated Press

A city police officer was suspended after someone posted to the Web a video of him, in a bar and apparently intoxicated, joking about a homicide victim.

In his profanity-laced rant, James Cousins II talks about the victim being shot in the forehead and his body lying outside a bar below a malt-liquor sign that reads, "take it to the head." He laughs as he recounts seeing the dead man's leg twitch and the reaction of the victim's mother as she identifies him. Cousins also says he used his camera phone to take photos of the victim.

"We're looking at it like, 'One less drug dealer to deal with. Cool,'" he says on the video.

Cousins, who was hired in 2004, was suspended with pay Wednesday after the Erie Times-News asked about the video. A phone message left Thursday at a number for a James Cousins was not immediately returned.

Erie Police Chief Steve Franklin said Cousins apparently was drunk but that an investigation would place the officer's comments in context.

"We see what's on the picture," Franklin said. "Let's see what's behind the picture before we make any rash decisions."

It's not clear when the nearly eight-minute video was recorded. The shooting occurred in late March and the video was posted to YouTube on April 6. Erie police said Wednesday they were trying to have the video removed from the site.

Erie County District Attorney Brad Foulk called Cousin's behavior unacceptable and apologized to the victim's family.

"On its face, it is extremely disturbing to me," Foulk told the Erie News-Times. "If the videotape accurately portrays the comments — and at this point in time, I have no reason to believe otherwise — I would be extremely interested in hearing what possible reasons or excuses can be given for the comments and behavior it contains."

The victim, who had convictions including possessing drugs and paraphernalia, was shot outside a bar after fighting with another man, police have said.