2 slain Fla. cops mourned at funeral while suspect denied bond at hearing across town

By Tamara Lush, AP
Saturday, July 3, 2010

2 slain Fla. cops mourned as suspect denied bond

TAMPA, Fla. — Two police officers gunned down during a traffic stop were remembered Saturday as family men devoted to protecting the public, while the convicted felon accused of killing them was ordered to remain in jail the day after he surrendered.

Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, was denied bail at his first court appearance Saturday on two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab early Tuesday.

Morris turned himself in at a police station about 10:30 p.m. Friday after detectives spent more than 30 hours negotiating with an associate of his. His surrender ended an intense manhunt in which hundreds of officers in tactical gear combed apartment buildings, vacant homes and even waterways. Detectives fielded more than 400 tips.

Hundreds attended a funeral for Curtis and Kocab on Saturday morning at the Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz. The church’s pastor, Ken Whitten, opened the service.

“We wanted to have a place where we could come under one roof as a city and a family and as friends to mourn, to grieve, to cry,” Whitten said. “Maybe even to laugh, and to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us this day.”

Tampa police Officer Dave Michelson said Curtis was a loving father, devoted husband and proud police officer.

“When Dave wasn’t working, he was racing home to be with his family,” Michelson said.

“To him, being a police officer was personal. It wasn’t a job — it was a calling.”

Charlie Helm, a Plant City police officer, said Kocab didn’t quit working when the shift was over.

“In his free time, he nearly cleaned out a whole apartment complex of crime,” Helm said.

It was about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday when Curtis pulled over a man and woman in a red Toyota Camry. He called for backup after seeing the man was wanted in Jacksonville for writing a bad check. Six minutes after Curtis and Kocab approached the car’s passenger side, a witness called 911 to report they were shot. The officers were pronounced dead at a hospital.

At the hearing Saturday, Assistant Public Defender Charles Traina said his office has a conflict of interest in representing Morris because it represents Cortnee Brantley, who also faces charges in the case. Another attorney will be appointed for Morris.

Brantley, the car’s driver, was charged Friday with a federal count of witnessing a felony and not reporting it. A message left seeking comment on Brantley’s charges wasn’t immediately returned by the public defender’s office.

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.

In the May 18 shooting, 21-year-old Derek Anderson was killed outside his family’s apartment after detectives believe the shooter tried to take Anderson’s backpack.

Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said Friday night that Morris also is considered a suspect in the June 8 death of a father of four who was found badly hurt on the side of a road and died while he was being taken to a hospital.

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