TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A 20-year-old suspect is facing capital murder charges after police say he murdered a Tuscaloosa police officer in cold blood on Monday.
Reports from CNN confirmed that suspect Luther Bernard Watkins Jr. is now being charged with capital murder for the shooting death of Tuscaloosa Police Officer Dornell Cousette.
Watkins is being held at an undisclosed location due to security concerns and has been denied bail, sources say.
“I would like to say that the family of Investigator Cousette is foremost in our thoughts, and the investigators of the violent crimes unit working this case have but one goal in mind: obtaining all facts and evidence to provide to the district attorney’s office for a successful prosecution,” Lt. Jack Kennedy of the sheriff’s violent crimes unit said following the shooting.
Cousette was killed on Monday while attempting to arrest Watkins.
It happened at Short 17th Street and 33rd Avenue, said Tuscaloosa police spokeswoman Lt. Teena Richardson. Watkins had been wanted on prior warrants for failing to show in court for a first-degree robbery and second-degree assault charge, as well two more first-degree robbery counts from alleged incidents on September 6 and 10.
Cousette reportedly saw Watkins and gave chase, but the two quickly became engaged in a shootout.
“Almost immediately gunfire erupted inside. Both Watkins and Investigator Cousette were struck. Watkins, despite being injured, fled the scene on foot. Investigator Cousette was transported to the hospital where he died as a result of his injuries,” a police source said.
Authorities say that Officer Cousette was shot in the face during the altercation.
— Jack Royer (@JackRoyer) September 17, 2019
Cousette was rushed to DCH Regional Medical Center – despite the best efforts of doctors, they were unable to save him.
“Our thoughts and prayers tonight remain with this Tuscaloosa PD Officer who was yet another victim of violence against law enforcement,” tweeted Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Jay Town. “We hold vigil for him, his family, and all of TPD.”
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A veteran Tuscaloosa Police Department officer was shot and killed in the line of duty Monday. Officer Dornell Cousette, 40, leaves behind two daughters and a fiancée – https://t.co/xfBgF7XYSX pic.twitter.com/C8mOqFrClk
— #WVTM13 (@WVTM13) September 17, 2019
Maddox started the press conference on Monday defining what heroes look like, choking back tears.
“Heroes come in many different forms. We see them every Saturday on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama), or as we follow our favorite football or basketball teams and we get a chance to see what they can do. We see heroes on the big screen, with actors portraying roles that are heroic, and strong, and inspire. We often take the heroes around us for granted. We think they are invincible. Here, our heroes wear the uniform of the Tuscaloosa Police Department. Tonight, one of our heroes has died in the line of duty.”
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Dornell Cousette was a 40-year-old who served 13 years with the department.
“It’s terribly difficult,” the department said. “Every time you hear the phone ring, you just hope it’s not this call. And unfortunately, today it was this call. We are a family, and it’s very difficult to take.”
The officer, a U.S. Army veteran who joined the force in 2006, is the fourth to die in Alabama this year. Birmingham Police Sgt. Wytasha Carterwas killed Jan. 13, Mobile Police Officer Sean Tuderwas killed Jan. 20 and Auburn Police Officer William Buechnerwas killed May 19.
According to AL.com, in addition to the deaths of Carter, Tuder and Buechner, at least five other officers have been injured by gunfire. In the Birmingham shooting that killed Carter, Officer Luke Allums was critically wounded and hospitalized for nine days. He has since returned to work.