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Suspect's surrender helps calm east Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — Children ran through the breezeways of the three-story, gray buildings. Women shopped for groceries, some taking rides with friends and mothers.

At the Kenneth Court apartment complex in east Tampa, a hotbed of activity during the police manhunt for Dontae Morris, life has returned to what passes for normal.

"Maybe the police will get a good night's sleep and we'll get a break from some of this madness," said Pamela Renteria, 40.

Across the courtyard on Saturday, Nika Pearson put the week's events into perspective.

"I feel better now that he's behind bars, but there will still be crime here every day," said Pearson, 21. "It ain't like he was the only man around here carrying a gun."

The complex, just north of Hills­borough Avenue, is no stranger to drugs and violence. Pearson said she doesn't even know what her man is doing much of the time.

Renteria, of Plant City, was visiting Kenneth Court to go grocery shopping with one of her three daughters who live in the complex. She wishes they could move away.

"We're used to seeing police in here," Renteria said. "We're just not used to seeing so many police."

Sergio Bogan, 25, had this to say about Morris: "I want to minister to that guy, get him to turn his life around."

Morris surrendered late Friday and was charged with the Tuesday slayings of Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis as well as the May 18 killing of Derek Anderson, a 21-year-old Kenneth Court resident.

Pearson, who was sitting on a utility box nearby, shook her head.

Morris is accused of killing "two innocent people who were only doing their job, to protect us," she said. "It's just messed up, period."

Although some who live here have met Morris, they consistently denied knowing where he was or helping him hide.

"I would have been the first one to call the police," said Bernard Anderson, 45. He added that, had Morris tried to hide at the complex, "some of these people could have killed him."

Police visits, including a prolonged search Wednesday afternoon, put people on edge and fueled resentment.

"The police were kind of rough on us," said Octavia Boddie, Renteria's 23-year-old daughter. She described a conversation with an officer that took place while she stood with her baby, locked out of her home.

"It made me cry," she said, adding that her 5-year-old niece was "terrified" when an officer came to the door with a gun.

Residents worried that, if Morris wasn't caught, the searches would continue and intensify.

Sherika Davis, 18, has a 9-month-old baby. "When they talked about bringing dogs in here, I was afraid because what if she made one sudden move."

Now, she said, "I feel safer."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 909-4602 or sokol@sptimes.com.

Suspect's surrender helps calm east Tampa apartment complex 07/03/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 11:22pm]
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