Two Tampa police officers gunned down during early morning traffic stop
TAMPA – Authorities are focusing on a Palm River apartment complex in their search for the killers of Officer Jeff Kocab and Officer Dave Curtis. The officers were murdered by a gunman during an early morning traffic stop.
Officer Jeff Kocab, 31, died around 4 a.m. at Tampa General Hospital. He leaves behind a wife who is 9-months pregnant.
The second officer, 31-year-old Dave Curtis, died around 8:30 a.m. after being put on life support. at Tampa General Hospital, according to TPD. He leaves behind his wife, Kelly, and four children.
“This is an unbelievable tragedy,” said Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. “Our hearts are just breaking. It is so very tragic.”
Authorities want to question two people. They’re identified as 24-year-old Dontae Rashawn Morris and 22-year-old Cortnee Nicole Brantley, addresses unknown. Detectives believe the pair were at the scene of the shooting. Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor described them as “armed and dangerous.”
Officers and SWAT members also surrounded a neighborhood Tuesday morning that includes the Bristol Bay City View condominiums in the vicinity of 50th Street and Palm River Road. Initial reports indicated that a suspect vehicle may have been located. It’s unclear what else officers were looking for.
It began when Officer Curtis initiated a traffic stop with a red Toyota near 50th Street and 23rd Avenue at 2:15 a.m. because the car did not have a visible tag.
Officer Kocab joined him after it was determined that the passenger in the car had an outstanding warrant for a worthless check out of Jacksonville. Chief Castor said as soon as they put their hands on the suspect, the man spun around, pulled out a gun and shot both officers in the upper body.
Castor said both officers were wearing body armor. But based on where they were shot, the armor could not have protected them.
There were no radio transmissions after the shootings. Police say a witness called police approximately six minutes after the officers began the traffic stop.
The suspect vehicle is described as a red 1994 Toyota Camry with a rounded body style.
The gunman is described as a mid-to-late 20′s black male about 5-feet 10- inches tall, weighing between 150 and 170 pounds and wearing a white shirt with black vest. It is unknown if he fled the scene on foot or left in the car.
Police are also searching for the female driver of the car.
As word of the shootings spread, dozens of somber officers streamed into Tampa General.
“We’re a very close family,” said Chief Castor. “To have such a tragedy as this is very difficult.”
In addition to his wife. Officer Curtis leaves behind four boys ages 9, 8, 5 and 8 months. Chief Castor described him as “a family man” who spent all his off-time with his children.
Curtis has been an officer with Tampa police for more than three-and-a-half years. He was a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office jail deputy before joining TPD.
Jeff Kocab was previously with the Plant City Police Department before joining TPD fourteen months ago.
Both officers were assigned to District 3 Squad’s midnight shift. Chief Castor said the men, both 31-years-old, were born just a month apart.
Other local law enforcement agencies, including the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Temple Terrace Police Department, are aiding TPD in the search for the suspects.
“The perimeter is tightening,” said Chief Castor.
If you have any information you’re urged to call Tampa Police at (813) 231-6130.
This is the Bay area’s second incident of law enforcement officers being shot in less than a week. Two Polk County deputies were shot early Friday in Lakeland after stopping a man riding a bicycle. They are expected to recover.