In a perfect world, we could all look forward to the long week-end that lies before us, and enjoy the fine flavor of ribs, steaks, burgers and hot dogs on a grill as we kick back to celebrate the 4th of July.
Like most people across America , 31 year-old Tampa Police Officer Dave Curtis looked forward to the holiday with his wife, Kelly, and their 4 sons, Austin, 9, Sean, 6, Tyler, 5, and Hunter, 8 months.
His co-worker, Jeffrey A. Kocab (also 31) was looking forward to an additional celebration this week-end: His wife Sara, 9 months pregnant, was expecting to give birth to their first child any day now.
But this is not a perfect world, and now, tragically, the families of both, instead of celebrating the 4th of July, will be burying these two fine young police officers, husbands, fathers and family men. What started off in the early hours of Tuesday morning as a routine stop of a car with no license plate on display quickly turned deadly when, according to the police, the passenger in the car, identified as 24 year-old Dontae Morris, opened fire on both officers. The suspect, who has a lengthy police record, reportedly fled on foot and the car sped off, leaving the two officers mortally wounded. Kocab died shortly afterwards, but Curtis was able to hold on long enough for his family to make the decision to allow the hospital to harvest his organs for transplants.
Police later located the car and took 22 year-old Cortnee Nicole Brantley into custody. She was allegedly the person behind the wheel of the car. They questioned her and later released her without charging her. Morris, however, remains at large and is considered armed and extremely dangerous. His family has pleaded to allow him to turn himself in, but the manhunt is on and police from all over the country are on the lookout. There is also a $100,000 reward for information leading to his eventual arrest.
Trying to put measurement on a tragedy of this scope is futile. And I know it’s just a matter of time before the newspapers and other forms of media start their usual “coverage from all angles.” To them, I would simply say two words: “Please don’t.” It’s always the same: We will be told of how the alleged shooter was a good kid who got into the wrong crowd. We will be told things like, “He was on his way to success when drugs took him down the wrong path.”
But honestly, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear or read one damn word designed to remind us that the suspect is a human being and is a victim of whatever… I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT - NOT NOW. Because right now, the only thing that matters is that this cold-blooded murderer is caught and held accountable. And because right now, the most important story is this:
- Two young ladies are now widows and are going to have to raise their families alone.
- The four young sons of David Curtis have now been forced to face growing up without their loving father available to them. That’s an incredibly tall order to be forced on anyone, but especially four young boys.
- Kocab’s wife Kelly went into labor later on the day her husband died and gave birth to a baby daughter he will never see or hold. Imagine, if you can, the extent to which the lives of both mother and daughter were shredded in the blink of an eye by the actions of Morris.
- Perhaps worst of all: Away from the headlines, and after the news coverage ends, two families will be unable to avoid the heartbreaking task of all the “firsts” they now must face: the first trip to the store, the first trip to church, the first little-league baseball or soccer game; the first Christmas without these two young men. This is the emotional debris the public does not get to see, much of it coming months later - and when the family leasts expects it to hit. I can tell you from experience, each one rips open the wound leaving more emotional scar tissue behind – especially in the children.
- If captured alive, even if tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, the cold-hearted murderer of these two young police officers will probably be provided free room and board at taxpayer’s expense for 25 years or more before the appeals run out.
- This kind of tragedy is becoming all too common in society today. As recently as December, I reported on similar tragedies in Washington State, California and Pennsylvania… incidents that snuffed out the lives of a total of 11 police officers. You can read about it here.
No it’s not a perfect world. But it ought to be a lot better than this.
(Photo Sources: Tampa Police Department, TBO.com)
- July 3rd – Morris is now in police custody. He turned himself in late Friday evening, the night before the funeral services for officers Kocab and Curtis. Thankfully, at least the families have some comfort in knowing the man accused of murdering their loved ones is under arrest and will now be held accountable for his actions.
- The Tampa Police Department has established a fund to help the officers’ families. Donations can be made at any branch of the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union or checks can be mailed to the Fallen Officers’ Memorial Fund, c/o Tampa Police Department, 411 N. Franklin St., Tampa FL 33602.
- John Walsh will be featuring the manhunt for suspect Dontae Morris on this Saturday’s edition of his TV Crime-fighting show “America’s Most Wanted.”
Here is the “Wanted Poster” put out by the Tampa Police Department. Morris could be anywhere in the country by now. Please help distribute this and maybe we can help bring Dontae Morris to justice where he can be held accountable for his cowardly act that has devastated the lives of two families… and affected the lives of many more.