Update: Dontae Morris in Custody for Killing Two Tampa Police Officers, Three Others

TAMPA — Two Tampa police officers were shot to death Tuesday during a traffic stop, police said.

Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, both 31, were shot in the head at 50th Street and 23rd Avenue, said Mayor Pam Iorio.

As the city reeled from the second fatal police shooting in less than a year, a massive search was launched for two suspects.

The male shooting suspect was a passenger in the car and was wanted on an outstanding warrant from Jacksonville, police said. He shot both officers as they attempted to arrest him, police said. He fled on foot, police said, while the woman driver took off. By mid-morning, police had surrounded an apartment complex about a mile from the shooting scene.

Kocab died at Tampa General Hospital and Curtis died several hours later, police said.

Curtis’ family kept his body on life support so his organs could be donated, police said.

Police were looking for a 1994 red Toyota Camry they said was involved in the shooting.

The shooting suspect was described as a black man in his mid to late 20s, 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing 150 to 170 pounds. He had a short afro and was last seen wearing brown shorts and a white T-shirt and a black vest. No description of the woman was released.

The incident began about 2:15 a.m. when Curtis spotted a car at 50th Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that did not have a visible tag. The car stopped over at 50th Street and E 23rd Avenue.

Curtis asked for identification of both occupants and soon discovered that the passenger was wanted on an arrest warrant for a worthless check in Jacksonville.

Kocab was called for backup, standard procedure when someone is found to be wanted, police said.

Neighbors said they heard shots fired and the driver took off in the Camry. The shooting suspect ran away. He ran through an apartment complex at 3212 N 50th St., said Rose Dodson, 32, a resident there.

Police were combing that area side by side looking for evidence.

Another witness said she heard four or five gunshots. Chris Arline, 49, said she was buying a candy bar at a nearby Shell gas station when she heard the gunfire. Her son thought it was a truck.

“That’s not a truck,” she said. “That’s bullets.”

Arline left the store and saw paramedics giving CPR to someone on the ground.

The shooting happened so quickly the officers did not have a chance to return fire or radio for help. They were shot at close range, said Police Chief Jane Castor. Both were wearing bullet-proof vests, but they did little good.

Castor said she did not know the type of gun that was used.

A 911 call six minutes after the car was stopped was the first notice police had that the officers had been shot, police said. A passerby stumbled on the scene and found the officers shot, police said.

Detectives issued an urgent plea for witnesses to step forward. They want to talk to anyone who was in the area of N 50th Street and E 23rd Avenue about 2:15 a.m.

Anyone with information is asked to call (813) 231-6130.

Dozens of police and Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies were searching for the suspects.

They set up a perimeter that stretched from MLK to Interstate 4 and 40th to 50th streets. Traffic was blocked in both directions for hours. The northbound lanes were reopened by 7:30 a.m.

Several hours after the shooting, about 100 cadets from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office dressed in grey formed a line and searched the crime scene for evidence.

Castor said at a second news conference that the suspected shooter’s “best bet” is to give himself up.

“We’ll take the search nationwide if we need to,” Castor said. “We’re going to find him.”

Kocab leaves behind a wife who is nine months pregnant, Iorio said during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital. Kocab joined the Police Department about 14 months ago from the Plant City Police Department.

Curtis has a wife and four young children, Iorio said. A former Hillsborough County jail deputy, he became a Tampa police officer 2006.

Kocab’s wife was in Kissimmee, and Curtis’ family was in Sumter County. Both families gathered at TGH in the hours after the shooting.

Curtis has four children: Austin, 9; Sean, 6; Tyler, 5; and Hunter, 8 months.

“We are doing everything we can to help the wives and the family members,” Iorio said. “It’s just a very bleak day for us in Tampa.”

After the news conference Iorio burst into tears when recounting the call she received at 3 a.m. from Police Chief Jane Castor.

“She said ‘Mayor, I’ve got really bad news. We’ve had two officers shot and one is dead.'”

As soon as she saw it was the chief calling she knew it was bad news, Iorio said. She remembered getting a similar call from now-retired Chief Steve Hogue when Cpl. Mike Roberts was shot and killed last year.

Roberts was shot to death as he stopped to question a homeless man. Humberto Delgado has been charged with first degree murder in that August 2009 shooting.

Iorio said it is “heart-wrenching” to watch relatives and cousins grieve the deaths of Kocab and Curtis.

“It’s just been overwhelming grief inside the hospital,” she said.

Times staff writers Jessica Vander Velde and Katie Sanders contributed

To recap: A black man in his 20s, 5’10” tall, 150 to 170 lbs. has shot and killed two police officers that attempted to arrest him during a traffic stop when they found he had an outstanding on bad check charges from Jacksonville. He has absolutely nothing to lose because he’s already earned a death sentence. He may be looking for transportation in which to flee, so be alert and be armed.

Update: Captured

A convicted felon accused of killing two Tampa police officers during a traffic stop surrendered after detectives spent more than a day negotiating with an associate of the man, police said Saturday.

Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, turned himself in at a police station about 10:30 p.m. Friday, police said. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab early Tuesday.

“Honestly I can never remember a point in my life where I felt more relieved,” said Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor.

Police said Morris also was suspected in two other slayings, and by early Saturday he faced a third murder charge in the May 18 shooting death of a man killed outside his family’s Tampa apartment. A statement from Tampa police Public Information Officer Laura McElroy said ballistic tests indicate the same gun was used in the officers’ killings this week.


1 Response so far »

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    […] July 3, 2010 · Filed under life in Florida Dontae Morris surrendered in Tampa. […]

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