Two Tampa police officers killed during traffic stop www.privateofficer.com
A massive search continues for a man and woman last seen in a red 1994 Toyota Camry.
Officer Jeffrey Kocab, 31, had been with the department for about 14 months, coming from the Plant City Police Department. His wife, Sara, is nine months pregnant.
Officer Dave Curtis, also 31, had been with the department for almost four years. The former Hillsborough County jail deputy leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and four sons, ages 9 years to 8 months.
“This is an unbelievable tragedy for these families and for the larger family of TPD and for the larger family of the city of Tampa,” Mayor Pam Iorio said. “Our hearts are just breaking. It is so very tragic.”
The shooter is believed to be the Toyota’s male passenger and police have spoken with people who know him, Police Chief Jane Castor said.
“The perimeter is tightening around him,” Castor said. “His best bet is to give himself up.”
Police said they are looking for Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, and Cortnee’ Nicole Brantley, 22, but have not named them as suspects.
Morris was released from state prison in April after serving two years on a drug conviction in Hillsborough County, records show.
In October 2005, he was arrested by Tampa police on charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm and robbery. He was found not guilty.
Today’s incident began about 2:15 a.m. when Curtis pulled over the Toyota, which was missing a tag, near 50th Street and 23rd Avenue, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. The passenger was wanted on a misdemeanor warrant out of Jacksonville for a worthless check, so Curtis called for backup and Kocab came to the scene.
Both officers were shot in the head at close range as they approached the passenger side of the Toyota, McElroy said.
The officers made no radio transmissions.
Minutes later, someone called 911 to say two officers had been shot.
At a nearby Shell gas station, Chris Arline was walking her dog when she heard “pop-pop, pop-pop.”
Arline, 49, said she walked north on 49th Street and saw a police officer performing CPR.
“This is terrible,” Arline said. “They shot this man and left him for dead.”
The sound of two gunshots awoke Rose Dodson in her nearby apartment. She ran outside and a neighbor called 911.
Dodson said the officers were on their back, arm-in-arm. She placed her hand on one officer’s neck.
“He had a faint pulse,” she said.
The other officer was in worse shape, Dodson said.
Curtis and Kocab were rushed to Tampa General Hospital. A steady stream of officers arrived at the hospital before dawn, some grim-faced and others hugging comrades.
“It’s just been heart-wrenching as the family members have said goodbye to their loved ones,” Iorio said. “And then it’s been heart-wrenching to see the officers and how much this affects them.”
Kocab was a former Plant City Officer of the Year. In May 2007, he told The Tampa Tribune that he loved “being able to bring my energy to the street. I love to get the bad guys.”
Police Capt. Rocky Ratliff said Kocab and Curtis “were both go-getters. You didn’t have to tell them what to do, they knew.”
Castor said the department is “still reeling” from the fatal shooting of Cpl. Mike Roberts in August.
“We’re a very close family … and to have such a tragedy as this is very difficult,” she said.
It’s the second time in a week that officers have been shot during traffic stops in the Tampa Bay area.
Two Polk County deputies were shot early Friday in Lakeland after stopping a man riding a bicycle in an area plagued by thefts.
The officers’ conditions are improving.
The bicyclist was killed at the scene.