Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Police say informer who led to Dontae Morris will never be named

TAMPA — The name of the informer who turned in Tampa Bay's most wanted man will never be publicly released, Tampa police say.

His name is closely guarded behind detectives' zipped lips and secret files. The only clues authorities have released about the person who orchestrated the capture of Dontae Morris after an exhaustive manhunt is that he is male and a "confidential informant."

Morris has been charged with the murders of two Tampa police officers during a June 29 traffic stop and two earlier murders. And a Tampa police report has labeled Morris a Bloods gang member. By revealing the name, police think Morris' associates could hunt him down.

"There could be retaliation," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

It's why the public may never learn who gets some or all of the $100,000 reward money.

The cloak that protects police informers is sewn into state law, prohibiting police from revealing their names. It's a cover of anonymity that can stay with informers for life since some cases never close while others, especially involving drugs and gangs, are related to countless other crimes.

"Many investigations go on for extended periods of time and get reactivated," said Dave DeKay, St. Petersburg assistant police chief.

Tampa police are not saying when the man who turned in Morris became an informer. But he was not cooperating to get a pending criminal charge reduced when he spent more than 30 hours working with detectives during the manhunt, McElroy said.

Informers are motivated by revenge, fear, money, legal problems or the desire to be secretly helpful. They are not whisperers who dial tip lines or Crime Stoppers, but are typically insiders who help police on an ongoing basis within criminal circles.

While many have colorful arrest records, not all do.

"Confidential informants don't have to be a bad person. It could be my brother, a son, my mother — anybody who can assist with investigations," said state Rep. Peter Nehr, R-Palm Harbor.

Nehr sponsored "Rachel's Law," passed in 2009, after informer and 23-year-old Clearwater native Rachel Hoffman was killed in 2008 while on an undercover drug buy in Tallahassee. The law requires law enforcement agencies to have written policies and procedures for dealing with informers.

In Tampa, police are required to complete an informer personal history form, get a recent color photograph and make a 3- by 5-inch index card with the informer's name, address, date of birth, date of activation, complete criminal history and the name of the officer turning someone into an informer.

That officer has to tell his supervisor about the person, and if the informer's criminal record is questioned, the supervisor needs to check with high-ranking brass and even prosecutors. Before an informer is activated, the supervisor needs to meet with him and the sponsoring officer.

From that point on, two officers have to be present when meeting with informers unless a supervisor allows otherwise.

Informers must pledge to tell the truth, stay crime free and not do anything related to a case without supervision.

"When a confidential informant is acting under the cover of police, he is literally acting as an agent of law enforcement," said Tampa defense lawyer Lyann Goudie, who has handled cases involving them.

Police have discretion on what informers can earn. Sometimes it's regular payouts for information and other times it depends on arrests or convictions. Prosecutors review those deals.

When informers are paid, police have to fill out an expense voucher that asks if information led to arrests or seizures. Informers have to sign it, and a second police officer has to witness a payment being made.

Informers can either actively work with police or be considered inactive, meaning they haven't provided information for more than six months. They are officially released from duty only after police fill out a confidential informant deactivation form.

"If somebody is working off charges and they're a cooperating defendant," McElroy said, "we would fill out a deactivation form at the conclusion of the case."

But some informers want to continue for the money, and police are not in a hurry to release sources who could be helpful down the road.

Some informer's records gather dust in police files. "We may have had them many years ago, and they're just here," DeKay said.

"You don't have confidential informants that are Boy Scouts," said Goudie. "They're not usually doing it for their civic duty."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

Police say informer who led to Dontae Morris will never be named 07/12/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 7:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida State sees plenty of upside in Dade City native Jacob Pugh


    TALLAHASSEE — No, Florida State senior Jacob Pugh is not as versatile as teammate Derwin James.

     Florida State Seminoles linebacker Jacob Pugh (16) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) celebrate after sacking the Miami quarterback Saturday October 8, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
  2. Tampa officer treated for knee injury after police truck, police SUV collide


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A Tampa police officer was treated and released for a knee injury after an unmarked police truck collided with his patrol SUV while following a stolen car, a police spokesman said.

  3. Waiting for the eclipse: 'Everyone thinks this is cool'

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Hunter Holland came to school Monday with a NASA space T-shirt and solar viewers in his button-up shirt pocket. But he'd rather be in Missouri.

    Jayda Hebert (front, center), 11, uses her protective glasses to watch Monday's solar eclipse with her cousin, Judah Adams (back left), 11, and her brother Jake Hebert (right), 9, while with their family at St. Petersburg Beach. "We're skipping school for the eclipse," her mom, Sarah Hebert, said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  4. Second person resigns from Hillsborough diversity council after Confederate activist appointed


    TAMPA — A second person has resigned symbolically from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the appointment of a known activist of Confederate causes to the panel. 

    Two people have resigned from the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council after the inclusion of David McCallister, a leader of the local branch of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
  5. Everyone on Twitter is making this same eclipse joke


    Today's total solar eclipse is, of course, a social media event as much as it is a natural phenomenon. Twitter even rolled out an #eclipse hashtag that automatically adds an eclipse emoji.

    The solar eclipse is inspiring Twitter humor.