TAMPA — The roadside memorial to Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab near the spot where they were fatally shot didn't last two months.
In the past few days, vandals have left it in tatters – twice.
On Friday, Robin Mattson, 52, drove by the makeshift memorial she started after the shooting near 50th Street and E 23rd Avenue. She didn't see it.
At first, she thought she was looking at the wrong block. She turned around and pulled over. She still didn't see it.
Where the crosses, flowers, angels, stuffed animals and trinkets once stood was now a mess. The aluminum cross bearing Kocab's name was stomped on, she said, while plastic flowers lined the drainage ditch. Curtis' cross, miniature American flags and bouquets of plastic flowers were all strewn about the other side of chain-link fence in an abandoned lot.
"They really destroyed it," Mattson said.
She picked up the flowers, righted Kocab's cross and rearranged the memorial as best she could. Then she drove away.
But by early Monday, it was gone again.
This time, both crosses lay flat behind the fence. Flowers and flags once again covered the lot's grass.
"I'm disturbed to think now they've come back to do it again," Mattson said.
It's unusual for vandals to destroy a roadside memorial, especially one dedicated to a law enforcement officer, said Art Jipson, an associate professor at Dayton University who has studied roadside memorials for 11 years.
"People have a sense of respect," he said. "They have a sense of respect and awareness of what the memorial represents to the people who construct the memorial."
Out of the 409 roadside memorials he has researched, he has rarely seen any form of systemic vandalism.