Death penalty sought against man accused of killing Tuscaloosa police officer

Local News

Luther Watkins walking to court for his first preliminary appearance.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — A man charged with killing a Tuscaloosa police officer in September is now facing the death penalty.

In a motion filed Wednesday, Chief Assistant District Attorney Paula Hearing wrote that she and her team would seek the death penalty against Luther Watkins Jr., who is charged with capital murder in the death of Ofc. Dornell Cousette, who was shot in killed while on duty Sept. 16.

In the motion, Hearing wrote down a list of “aggravating circumstances” surrounding her decision to seek the death penalty, including that the shooting was done to prevent an arrest or escape custody, the act was done to hinder law enforcement and that the victim was a law enforcement officer.

According to police, Cousette was at the corner of Short 17th Street and 33rd Avenue attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Watkins, 20, for a robbery charge, when he ran into a nearby house. Police claim Cousette ran into the house and was shot in the process. He died later that night.

Cousette, 40, had been with the Tuscaloosa Police Department for 13 years.

Later that night after Cousette was shot, Watkins was found suffering from a gun shot wound, although he claimed it was from a drive-by shooting and had nothing to do with Cousette.

“Of course he is remorseful, but his public statements are that he did not shoot Ofc. Cousette,” Watkins’ attorney Jim Standridge, said during his preliminary hearing Oct. 4.

In a subsequent motion filed Thursday, Hearing wrote that prosecutors planned to introduce evidence of Watkins’ pending charges of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault..

“This evidence may be presented in conformity with Ala. R. Evid. 404(b) from testimony offered to prove that the Defendant had knowledge that he was under arrest and intended to prevent a lawful arrest by Officer Cousette,” the motion stated.

Watkins’ case has been sent to a grand jury.


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