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Investigation into officers' shootings leads to Tampa police employee's suspension

Alaina Riggins, who was arrested in the Tampa police slaying inquiry, is the worker’s daughter.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Alaina Riggins, who was arrested in the Tampa police slaying inquiry, is the worker’s daughter.

TAMPA — Police suspended a longtime employee Wednesday, saying she knew of her daughter's "close-knit" friendship with a man suspected of killing two officers but never mentioned it during the four-day search for him.

Carolyn Riggins, 45, appears to be related to shooting suspect Dontae Morris. Her daughter, Alaina Riggins, was arrested with Morris' brother last week.

Officials relieved Carolyn Riggins from her duties without pay and said she could face further repercussions. "If she was aware that her daughter was in contact with Dontae Morris, she will face termination," police Chief Jane Castor said.

Carolyn Riggins was hired in February 2000 as an office support specialist and most recently worked in the division that coordinates police officers for extra duty.

She has received glowing evaluations about her performance and work ethic.

"An outstanding employee with an outstanding attitude!" a supervisor wrote in December. "She is a 'go to' person that will get the job done. We appreciate her hard work and dedication to our agency and our community."

Castor said Riggins was not actively involved in the investigation, but officials are looking into whether she did research on her own.

Dontae Morris, 24, and Carolyn Riggins, formerly Carolyn Morris, have both lived in a Morris family residence at 4307 E Clifton St. in Tampa, public records show. Their exact relationship is unclear, but records suggest she could be an aunt.

Riggins' daughter and Morris' brother, Dwayne Callaway, were together when they were arrested early Saturday at the Motel 6 at 333 E Fowler Ave.

Alaina Nichole Riggins, 25, was accused of possessing cocaine, marijuana and a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Callaway, 21, faces two charges of probation violation, as well as cocaine and marijuana possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

At Carolyn Riggins' home on Maple Pointe Drive in Seffner, a woman who said she was Alaina Riggins showed up in a car with a man Wednesday afternoon.

"Get from around here, man," she told reporters. "I don't got nothing to say."

Asked if she wanted to comment, she tore up a television reporter's business card that was left at the front door, saying, "This is what I got to say to y'all."

Calls to the home were not returned.

Though Callaway's arrest report identified him as "providing refuge," neither he nor Alaina Riggins has been charged with helping Morris elude capture.

That could change.

"There is no doubt in my mind that he received assistance," Castor said at a news conference. "We're going to find out exactly what it was and who gave it to him and those individuals will be charged."

Those facing aiding and abetting charges may include Cortnee Brantley, who police say drove the red Toyota Camry to the scene where Tampa Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab were killed during an early morning traffic stop June 29.

So far, she faces an obscure federal charge of failing to report that Morris was a felon in possession of a gun.

Brantley was not cooperative during seven hours of questioning on June 29. She admitted to driving the car, but would not confirm that Morris was her passenger. Police know she spoke with Morris by phone after the shooting but don't have any indication that they met up again, Castor said.

Brantley's attorney has indicated she is ready for another interview with detectives. Castor said police hope she will be more forthcoming this time.

Detectives are trying to nail down every move Morris made between the fatal traffic stop in east Tampa and his arrest Friday night at a South Tampa law office.

During the search, police chased leads to New York, Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Baton Rouge, La., Castor said. At one point, they got a tip that someone was driving Morris to Miami. They found that person — Sadonnie Kitchen, who was arrested on an outstanding warrant for a drug trafficking charge in Volusia County — but not Morris.

In the end, police think their suspect never left Tampa.

"I think we were very close (to finding Morris) on a number of occasions," Castor said.

Some people who live where the manhunt was concentrated were upset by how it went down, claiming that police kicked in doors and kept people outside their apartments for hours.

Castor apologized to anyone who felt inconvenienced, but she was unapologetic about the duty of police to get a suspected killer off the streets.

"I think that if anyone was inconvenienced, that that anger should be directed toward Dontae Morris and those individuals that provided assistance to him," she said.

The chief said investigators have not found the handgun used in the police shooting, but are following promising leads about its location. Police believe it is the same gun used to kill Derek Anderson on May 18 at an apartment complex in east Tampa. Morris is charged with his death, is a suspect in another murder and a "person of interest" in yet another.

Search warrant affidavits released Wednesday revealed new details about the events surrounding the officers' shooting.

Minutes before he was shot in the head, Officer Curtis wrote down the name of the man police would say pulled the trigger: Dontae Morris.

Police later found those words, perhaps the last Curtis ever wrote, in the front seat of his patrol car along with Brantley's license, registration and insurance information.

Hours before the shooting, about 11:45 p.m. June 28, Brantley picked up a friend from work in her Camry.

The friend, 24-year-old Janiesha Carmouche, told police she and Brantley returned to Carmouche's Bristol Bay apartment, Unit 202, between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Brantley left the apartment and returned some time later, presumably after the two officers had been shot. Brantley never called authorities, but she used Carmouche's cell phone to call unknown persons throughout the day before police took her in for questioning.

In a search warrant, police wrote that Brantley appeared to have run over Curtis' legs as she sped away from the scene in her car.

Castor would not confirm that detail Wednesday, saying only, "We haven't been able to definitively prove that."

A dashboard camera in Curtis' patrol car captured the shooting.

Castor grew solemn when talk turned to the video. She refused to discuss it and shook her head when asked whether it would ever be released to the public.

"I hope not," she said. "I hope nobody has to see it."

Times staff writers Justin George, Janet Zink, Jessica Vander Velde, Robbyn Mitchell, Nandini Jayakrishna, Danny Valentine and Katie Sanders contributed to this story. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Investigation into officers' shootings leads to Tampa police employee's suspension 07/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 8, 2010 1:11pm]
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