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It's unclear who gets a reward in officers' killing case

TAMPA — The offer was unprecedented in Tampa's history — $100,000 to anyone providing information leading to the arrest of Dontae Morris, the man accused of killing two Tampa police officers.

On Saturday, Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said the money will likely go to someone.

But who will get it — and how much they will get — remains a mystery.

It was a confidential informer who led Tampa police to Morris late Friday, Castor said in a news conference prior to Saturday's joint funeral for Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

"Confidential informants are given a level of protection under the law," Castor said. "That individual will not be identified."

Information about confidential informers is exempted from public records laws. They serve as a special arm of police investigations, giving detectives inside access into otherwise hard-to-solve criminal investigations.

Tampa police policy requires that confidential informers be "properly documented, supervised and protected." They must provide police with a complete personal history, have their photo taken and have a face-to-face meeting with the officer they will be working with, as well as the officer's supervisor.

In Morris' case, Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis said, the informer had a relationship with police before the investigation into the deaths of Kocab and Curtis.

But that fact may actually preclude the person from claiming the entire $100,000 reward.

Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Lisa Haber, coordinator of CrimeStoppers Tampa Bay, said the nonprofit organization only issues reward money to tipsters who contact Crime-Stoppers and give information that leads to an arrest, Haber said.

Confidential informers are not eligible, she said.

CrimeStoppers anted up $10,000 of the total reward in the Morris case. The Tampa Police Department has not, to this point, been in contact with CrimeStoppers about issuing any reward money for Morris' arrest, Haber said.

"At this point," she said, "we are not able to make a determination about the eligibility of the Crime-Stoppers portion of the reward."

The FBI, which contributed $50,000 — the largest single offering to the total pot — considers eligibility for the reward on a case-by-case basis, said spokesman Dave Couvertier.

The basic rule is that the person be a member of the public who provides specific information that leads to the person's location and results in an arrest and/or conviction.

Couvertier, who attended the officers' funeral Saturday, said the FBI hasn't gotten the details yet on Morris' arrest or whether the circumstances leading to his capture meet the reward's eligibility requirements. He said that in all the advertisements of the FBI's portion of the reward, the agency directed people to call CrimeStoppers.

Unclear, Couvertier said, was whether the arrangement between the FBI and CrimeStoppers also called for the tipster to specifically make contact with the CrimeStoppers line in order to be eligible for the money.

The rest of the advertised reward came from the U.S. Marshal's Office, $10,000; Police Defense Fund, $10,000; Florida Department of Law Enforcement, $10,000; and the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, $10,000.

One thing that is clear about the reward money is that it's not likely to be disbursed today.

"This," Haber said, "is not going to be an overnight process."

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

It's unclear who gets a reward in officers' killing case 07/03/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:45am]
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