BRANDON — On the paintball field, Jeffrey Kocab had the speed to fill multiple positions while playing at a competitive level.
A member of the Tampa Bay Vengeance paintball organization, he was good enough to play in out-of-state tournaments. Mostly, though, he participated in local events. Kocab, a Tampa police officer, was a captain on a team of teenagers, serving also as their mentor.
Kocab and fellow Officer David Curtis, both 31, were shot and killed in the line of duty June 29. Dontae Morris, charged with their murders, remains in jail.
In the wake of the tragedy, fundraisers benefiting the officers' families are springing up throughout the bay area.
Warriors for Christ, a nonprofit paintball ministry, and Tiki's Paintball store in Brandon have joined the cause. On July 31, along with other sponsors, they will host the "Fallen Heroes" paintball game, a noncompetitive event for kids and adults of all levels.
Kocab and his wife of 10 years, Sara, were expecting a baby. She delivered the baby, which was stillborn, Wednesday, Tampa police said. Before her pregnancy, she too played paintball, said Aaron Vega, co-owner of Tiki's and a Tampa police officer.
"You're talking about a family that won't ever be a complete family anymore because somebody stepped in and decided to make that choice," said Vega, who saw Kocab as a rookie at the Plant City Police Department and once shared a district with him in Tampa.
"He always had a smile on his face. And it's funny because you hear that all the time, but that's really how he was."
In February, Kocab played a key role in helping lead the Vengeance to a first-place finish at a regional tournament. "He was just on fire that day," Vega said.
Next weekend's paintball game is one of many fundraisers staged by communities throughout the bay area to aid the Kocab and Curtis families. Kathleen Middle School in Lakeland, where Sara Kocab is a dean, raised $70,000 at a barbecue last weekend. The week before, a gathering at Big Belly Burgers of Brandon brought in more than $20,000. There also has been a benefit concert, and local radio personalities are raising money.
"I think they're very appreciative of all the support," police Chief Jane Castor said of the slain officers' wives. "They're very grateful."
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said she sees it all as a reflection of how the community feels about law enforcement officers.
"People are very emotional about what has occurred," Iorio said. "They really feel for the families, and they want to help in some way."
Kim Wilmath contributed to this report. Reach Kevin Smetana at firstname.lastname@example.org.