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Mourners visit Tampa Police Memorial overnight

TAMPA — They came through the night to pay their respects to David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab.

Police officers, security guards, military members and everyday residents left flowers, lit candles and said prayers at a memorial outside police headquarters in downtown Tampa.

Curtis and Kocab, shot dead during a traffic stop Tuesday, join 29 other Tampa officers killed in the line of duty, their names etched into the memorial's black stone facade.

The Tampa Police Memorial has become a living testament to the men and women who have given their lives in service to their community. Located on Franklin Street a block from City Hall, it is a magnet for mourners whenever an officer falls.

Daniel Danete, 41, and his wife, Olga, 47, got there about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.

They drove from Brandon. Daniel lit a prayer candle. Olga placed a red bear atop of a bed of flowers.

He bowed his head in prayer. She murmured condolences.

"My heart is so heavy … young lives gone like that," Olga Danete said. "I'm thinking about the family."

Both officers were 31.

"This is a heinous act," Daniel Danete said.

Neither have relatives on the police force, but feel strongly about the officers who keep them safe.

Olga Danete said police helped her with an ex-husband who was trying to kill her. Officers nabbed him on the second day, she said.

Tracy Griffith and Martin Torrey of Zephyrhills, security guards for the nearby Bank of America building, covered their security badges with black elastic, a traditional sign of mourning for those in law enforcement.

"We lost two good guys," said Griffith, who said he had known Curtis for years.

Griffith and Torrey paused at the memorial, bowing their heads. Then they went into the Tampa Police Museum to buy memorial T-shirts and miniature badge pins with black bands. They said some of the money goes to victims' families.

They walked outside, and Griffith went back to the monument. "I'll pay one more respect before I leave," he said.

He leaned in and placed his hand on the black granite. He started to cry.

"I was praying for the families," Griffith said. "Mostly, I just hope they're taken care of."

He began walking away, stopped, turned back, wiped his eyes. "I just hope this never happens again."

Tampa Officer Mike Hollifield, a 20-year veteran, said he saw people come and go throughout the night.

"Usually people don't say anything," he said.

One military man left a black military police badge. A security guard left a single rose.

One woman — toothless and tired looking — came bearing flowers. She pulled out a harmonica and performed a rendition of Amazing Grace.

"It wasn't good," Hollifield said with a chuckle. "But the thought was nice."

Tracy Griffith, a security guard, pauses before a monument to fallen Tampa police officers Wednesday morning. Griffith says he knew Officer David Curtis, who with Officer Jeffrey Kocab was killed in the line of duty early Tuesday.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Tracy Griffith, a security guard, pauses before a monument to fallen Tampa police officers Wednesday morning. Griffith says he knew Officer David Curtis, who with Officer Jeffrey Kocab was killed in the line of duty early Tuesday.

Mourners visit Tampa Police Memorial overnight 06/30/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 7:56pm]
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