20-year-old charged with capital murder in death of Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette

Luther Bernard Watkins, 20(Tuscaloosa County Jail)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A Tuscaloosa police officer who pursued a wanted man into a house after spotting him outside was shot to death while trying to make the arrest, authorities said.

Officer Dornell Cousette, 40, was killed Monday night after exchanging gunfire with the man inside the home, interim Police Chief Mitch Tubbs told a news conference.

Luther Bernard Watkins, 20, is charged with capital murder in the police officer’s death. Watkins is being treated for injuries at an undisclosed location, authorities said.

Cousette got information that Watkins, who was wanted for robbery and for failing to appear on felony warrants, was at a residence, authorities said. When Cousette drove by the home, Watkins fled across the yard and Cousette chased him inside, investigators said.

“Almost immediately gunfire erupted inside,” Lt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said. The sheriff’s office and other investigators outside the Tuscaloosa Police Department are taking the lead on the investigation.

It was not immediately clear if Watkins has a lawyer.

Cousette was an Army veteran who had been with the police department for 13 years. He was engaged and had two daughters.

“Everybody loved him,” Tubbs said. “You could tell by the number of people that arrived at the hospital when we got the news. He was well thought of throughout the department. He was a hero.”

The Tuscaloosa News reported that Cousette had spent much of his law enforcement career as a juvenile investigator

“His life was dedicated to making sure children have a safe environment, to making sure they had guidance,” Mary Beth Sutton, principal of Flatwoods Elementary School, told the newspaper. “His heart really was for the kids. His passion will be his legacy.”

Cousette was the fourth Alabama police officer killed in the line of duty this year. Gov. Kay Ivey ordered flags lowered to half-staff to honor Cousette on the day of his burial.

“The ultimate sacrifice of Officer Dornell Cousette will never be forgotten,” she said in a statement.

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