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Mourners gather at visitation for fallen Tampa officers

LUTZ — The pictures flashing across giant screens were bad enough. But there were open caskets, and the Tampa police officers at Friday's visitation had to look at Jeff Kocab's and Dave Curtis' faces knowing that they hadn't yet caught their killer.

Hymns played and tears fell, but there was no mourning at Idlewild Baptist Church for many Tampa officers who took short breaks from the manhunt. There were grim, steely faces, simmering anger and raw nerves from no sleep.

Hundreds came to the public visitation, where they saw pictures of the beefy Curtis wrestling a steer, cradling his buzz-cut sons and nestling a puppy. Another screen flashed images of Kocab karate kicking, jumping out of an airplane and hugging his pregnant wife.

Those pictures, along with the sight of Kocab's widow sighing in the front row and uniformed officers from across the nation standing in solidarity, might have been a jolt of emotion for the Tampa officers to press on with their manhunt.

But they didn't need it.

"I don't think the officers need to be recharged," Chief Jane Castor said. "Their energy and focus is catching the suspect."

Thinking that Kocab and Curtis died on the job without saying goodbye to their families has been more than enough fuel for 23-year police Officer David Shepler.

"If it were your family, would it recharge you?" he asked.

There has been no time to explore emotions for Tampa police, something Illinois State police Officer Rigo Montes understands.

He has lost several colleagues and was in Orlando when he heard about the shootings. He extended his vacation to attend the wake.

"It makes it a lot more difficult knowing one of them is out there and you're burying one of your own," he said.

Master Patrol Officer Josh Pinney, a 22-year Tampa veteran, hasn't been a street officer for years but volunteered 10 hours a night after work, clearing tips and handing water to weary officers.

"We're going to catch this guy, hopefully tonight, because that's our closure," he said.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Mourners gather at visitation for fallen Tampa officers 07/02/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 11:56pm]
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