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Originally published Tuesday, April 19, 2011 at 10:05 PM

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2 tourists killed in Sarasota

Two British college graduates vacationing in Sarasota were shot dead in the city's roughest neighborhood Saturday after an evening of drinks at a bar.

The New York Times

MIAMI — In a Florida double slaying that has consumed the media in England, two British college graduates vacationing in Sarasota were shot dead in the city's roughest neighborhood Saturday after an evening of drinks at a bar.

Police officials are investigating how the men, James Cooper, 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, got from the downtown bar to the public-housing project, where they died.

The two University of Sheffield graduates were staying with Cooper's parents in a condominium on nearby Longboat Key.

Shawn Tyson, 16, was charged Sunday with two counts of first-degree murder. The men were killed a day after Tyson was released from a juvenile facility, where he was held on charges of aggravated assault with a handgun, police officials said. Prosecutors intend to try Tyson, who last year dropped out of the eighth grade in a school for children with special needs, as an adult.

"From what I can pull together in the past few days, I don't think we have ever had a tourist murdered, much less two at the same time," Kelly Kirschner, the mayor of Sarasota, said Tuesday.

The Sarasota police chief, Mikel Hollaway, said he believed Cooper, a tennis coach, and Kouzaris, a rugby player and would-be urban planner, were in the neighborhood voluntarily. No drugs or arms were found.

British media coverage has accused Sarasota officials of trying to dispel that the city of 55,000 is blighted by crime. "The British media is portraying this as crime run amok, and that is not true," Kirschner said.

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