Man Accused of Killing Tuscaloosa Police Officer Claims Self-Defense
The man accused of murdering a Tuscaloosa Police Officer trying to arrest him in 2019 is now claiming he acted in self-defense.
The victim, Investigator Dornell Cousette, was fatally shot while attempting to serve a warrant on Luther Bernard Watkins, Jr., who was wounded in the exchange.
Watkins was found quickly after a large-scale manhunt and charged with capital murder after he recovered from his wounds.
In a motion filed Friday requesting a pre-trial hearing, Watkin's attorney Jim Standridge suggested for the first time since Cousette's death in September 2019 that he was the aggressor and shot Watkins twice before the 23-year-old returned fire and killed him.
According to Standridge, Cousette and a bail bondsman found Watkins at a residence on 33rd Avenue where Watkins, who was wanted, was with several acquaintances.
The defense attorney claims Cousette warned Watkins 'Run and I'll shoot!' and, as the two lawmen entered the residence, "Officer Cousette shot the Defendant in the back, then in the chest with his duty weapon, knocking the defendant to the floor."
Standridge said Investigator Cousette was not acting in his official duty as a Tuscaloosa Police Officer but was assisting the bail bondsman in serving the arrest writ. He says Cousette's supervisor at TPD denied him permission to serve the writ and he defied them.
"The Defendant, who was in a place where he had a right to be, a residence, therefore maintains that he was acting in self-defense after having been shot twice by Officer Cousette and that he should be immune from prosecution based upon that fact."
Standridge asks for a hearing before the capital murder case goes to trial later this year to argue for immunity based on self-defense.
Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against Watkins.