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Police use reward, known associates in hunt for shooting suspect

TAMPA -— In the heat of a statewide search for a man suspected of shooting and killing two Tampa Police officers Tuesday morning state and federal law enforcement agencies are offering up to a $95,000 reward.

Police across Florida are targeting associates of Dontae Rashawn Morris.

In an effort to cut off any avenue of escape or refuge, law enforcement is investigating his family, friends, acquaintances and criminal associates, police chief Jane Castor said.

"I feel confident we're going to get him," Castor said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "There are not too many places for him to go to."

Law enforcement agencies outside the Tampa Bay area are helping in the effort, Castor said, by keeping tabs on any contacts outside the region that Morris might have. She did not identify those agencies, but said police believe Morris is still in the area.

The money comes from several agencies— $50,000 put up by the FBI, $10,000 by the U.S. Marshal's Office and $5,000 by Crime Stoppers. Late Tuesday, the Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement each offered an additional $10,000 for information leading to a conviction.

As Castor spoke during a Tuesday afternoon news conference, she wore a black band around her left wrist. Inscribed on it was the name of Cpl. Mike Roberts, the Tampa officer killed in the line of duty Aug. 19, 2009. Mayor Pam Iorio and Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee stood by her side.

The command post set up at the ADESA car auctioning business, at 3225 N 50th St., will remain in operation as long as police believe Morris is still in the area. If police think he's left the area, then a Tampa police-U.S. Marshals task force will be called in to capture him.

The crush of law enforcement vehicles at the command post didn't let up all day Tuesday. The FBI even brought its own armored vehicle to bolster the two already being used by Tampa officers and Hillsborough deputies to search for Morris.

Long lines of police vehicles could be regularly seen pouring out of the command center and racing down 50th Street, emergency lights flashing, as they chase down each tip that could lead to Morris.

Federal agents from the U.S. Marshals, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the FBI were called in to relieve Tampa police and Hillsborough sheriff's SWAT members, who have been lugging around body armor and rifles in 100-degree heat.

But Castor said they refused to take a break.

"We're trying to give them a rest, but they won't go," she said. "It's their family. They want this guy caught."

When Castor spoke, more than 12 hours had passed since her officers were killed. But the chief said the time element doesn't concern her.

She described the investigation behind the scenes as "fluid and dynamic" and unfolding quickly.

"We know who he is," she said, "and we're going to find him."

Police use reward, known associates in hunt for shooting suspect 06/29/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 11:31pm]
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