Graduates shot dead in Florida

James Cooper (left) and James Kouzaris (right) Sheffield Uni graduates shot dead in Florida
James Cooper (left) and James Kouzaris (right) Sheffield Uni graduates shot dead in Florida
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two University of Sheffield graduates shot dead while on holiday in Florida were today described as well-loved and popular.

James Cooper, aged 25, and James Kouzaris, 24, were found by police in the city of Sarasota, on the south-western coast, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The pals met while studying at the University of Sheffield and were on holiday with James Cooper’s family.

James Cooper had graduated in 2009 with a BA in management, while James Kouzaris had studied a three year BA in Urban Studies Planning, followed by a 12-month masters degree in Urban Studies and Planning which he completed in 2008.

Today their former tutors spoke of their shock.

Ed Ferrari, research fellow from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Town and Regional Planning said: “James was committed to his studies and a skilled planner but, more than that, he was a friend to many in our department.

“His positive outlook and humour were infectious and he involved himself totally in the life of our department and university.

“He was just the sort of student any lecturer would hope to have in their class.”

Dr Jon Burchell, senior lecturer from the University of Sheffield’s Management School, said of James Cooper: “During his time in Sheffield, James was an enthusiastic and hard-working student, and was popular among his peers.

“He had a good sense of humour and a range of plans for what he wanted to do after graduation.

“I am immensely shocked and saddened by the news and send our deepest condolences to his family.”

The men’s bodies were discovered by officers who were called to a street in the north of Sarasota at around 3am on Saturday.

Both were pronounced dead at the scene from gunshot wounds, a Sarasota Police spokesman said.

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with two counts of murder.

James Cooper was born and bred in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. He was a keen tennis player and had worked as a tennis coach at Inspire2Coach, at Warwick University.

His best friend James Roe, a coach at Kenilworth Tennis club, said: “James lived for tennis and for Coventry City Football Club.

“It was a complete shock when I heard about what happened.

“The brutality of it all and the fact somebody took his life is probably the hardest thing to deal with.”

James Kouzaris, of Northampton, attended Northampton School for Boys.

Headteacher Michael Griffiths said he had been captain of the school’s rugby team.

He added: “His rugby coach said he was a smashing lad, always had a smile on his face, was gregarious, good company and somebody who was always keen for new challenges. He was extremely popular, he was keen to do well in his studies. A really pleasant, amiable young man.”

The men had been staying on the upmarket island city of Longboat Key, about 12 miles from the less affluent area where they were killed.

Captain Paul Sutton of Sarasota police said there was no known association between the suspect and the victims and he didn’t know why they were in the area.