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Missteps let youth go free before tourist slayings

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Florida teenager accused of fatally shooting two British tourists had been freed just hours earlier in another shooting case despite a judge's warning that he posed a danger, a newspaper reported.

Shawn Tyson, 16, was ordered held without bond Friday on five felony counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the earlier shooting. He's accused of firing into an occupied car during an unrelated dispute earlier this month.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported that missteps in that earlier case's handling allowed Tyson to be released April 16. Early the next day, authorities allege, he fatally shot James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24.

In the previous shooting, Tyson was arrested and had a first court appearance hearing on April 8. At the hearing, Chief Judge Lee Haworth raised questions about whether the teen posed a danger to the community. He also ordered a detective familiar with the case to present more information at the next hearing.

According to the newspaper, the Sarasota Police Department says it never received the order, and the detective did not attend the April 15 hearing. During that hearing, which was before Juvenile Judge Deno Economou, prosecutors did not mention the previous judge's concerns.

Records also show prosecutors did not object to a Department of Juvenile Justice recommendation that the teen be released to home detention even though his mother had told the court she often didn't know where the boy stayed.

The hearing lasted three minutes and the teen was released later that day.

Police say that sometime around 3 a.m. the next day, April 16, the teen shot the British tourists in the city's high-crime Newtown neighborhood.

Police are still trying to determine why the men had gone to the neighborhood.

Cooper and Kouzaris had recently graduated from college and were on vacation in the United States, Holloway said. Multiple British press reports and Kouzaris' Facebook page indicated the two had attended the University of Sheffield together.

Tyson will appear on charges related to their slaying at a later date and he is expected to be charged as an adult.