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Hillsborough honors women who helped fallen Tampa officers; two faced criticism

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, right, speaks with, from left, Renee Roundtree, Rose Dodson and Delores Keen on Wednesday. The women were honored for their attempts to help Tampa Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White, right, speaks with, from left, Renee Roundtree, Rose Dodson and Delores Keen on Wednesday. The women were honored for their attempts to help Tampa Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

TAMPA — At the store, walking down the street and at local clubs, Renee Roundtree hears the comments.

Snitch. Why'd you help them?

"I even had an ex-friend call and say, 'That was f------ up. You turned my boy in,' " said Roundtree, 37.

But she didn't turn in Dontae Morris, the man accused of shooting Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab on June 29. She simply tried to help the two officers as they lay shot on the ground outside of her friend's apartment. She checked their pulses and stayed on scene with Delores Keen — who called 911 — and Rose Dodson until police arrived.

On Wednesday, the three women were praised by Hillsborough County commissioners for rushing to try to help the officers.

But two of them say they're concerned for their safety. They say they've received dozens of negative comments since that morning, many from strangers who recognized them from television news interviews.

"I expected it," said Dodson, 32, an African-American. "I don't want to say black folks, but I've got to say black folks — some have faith in the cops and some of them have been harassed for so long, been profiled, that they don't want nothing to do" with the police.

"When they hear someone was helping them, they wonder why. But they don't understand. They weren't in the situation. I don't believe anyone would have been so coldhearted that they would have walked away."

The women say they know they did the right thing.

That morning, all Dodson could think was that the two men were sons, and possibly husbands and fathers. The mother of an 8-year-old boy, she said she prays for the families of the officers.

After County Commissioner Kevin White handed each a certificate, the three told reporters the story of finding Kocab lying on Curtis' outstretched arms, calling 911 and being put on hold by a dispatcher.

Roundtree was headed to a store when the shots rang out. She ran back into the apartment but went out a couple of minutes later when she saw police cars, thinking they were making a house call.

Instead, she found the two officers in a ditch. Keen called 911. She said the dispatcher put her on hold and then said she was going to transfer her.

"I said, 'What are you going to transfer me for? Two officers are down,' " said Keen. She gave the address of the shooting.

"She said we don't have any officers in that location," recalled Keen, who works at Checkers. "I said, 'Yes, you do.' " She estimates it took 15 minutes for help to arrive.

Tampa police reviewed the 911 tape on Wednesday and said the first officer arrived at the scene 2 minutes and 54 seconds after the call was made.

The call was transferred from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office to the Tampa Police Department, and it took only 20 seconds, Tampa police said. The city's dispatcher remained on the line with the caller until multiple officers had arrived on scene.

"It is common for people in stressful situations to think scenarios are longer than reality," said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis in a prepared statement.

When presented with this information, Dodson and Keen still insisted it took longer. They believe the dispatcher thought their call was a prank.

While waiting for the officers, Roundtree and Dodson checked the pulses of Kocab and Curtis.

"They were breathing," said Roundtree, a cosmetologist.

Despite the criticism that Dodson and Roundtree say they've faced, they've also both received thanks — from local residents and from the officers' families.

The two women attended the officers' funeral at Idlewild Baptist Church on July 3. There, Curtis' mother and the two widows approached them and thanked them, Dodson and Roundtree said.

"Curtis looked so much like his mother. She said she had been trying to get in contact with us to thank us," Roundtree said. "I tried to hold it together, but she made me cry."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Hillsborough honors women who helped fallen Tampa officers; two faced criticism 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:38pm]
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