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When Tampa officers left widows, a community rallied

TAMPA — Maybe it's that one man was a father of four, or that both left wives behind. Whatever the reason, Tampa police say the outpouring of community support for the families of slain Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab is unprecedented.

More than $300,000 has been collected, according to estimates from the Tampa Police Department, the police union and groups that held fundraisers.

Additionally, each widow qualifies for more than $700,000 in payouts from federal, state, local and union programs, plus pensions that amount to half of their husbands' salaries for life.

Eight more fundraisers are planned, and on Tuesday, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem gave each widow a $26,500 check from his foundation. Kelly Curtis and Sara Kocab shook the radio host's hand and thanked him.

At the ceremony, police Chief Jane Castor said she has been deeply moved by the public response.

"The outpouring of support has been nothing short of overwhelming," she said. "We just can't say thank you enough."

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said she has never seen the community moved to hold so many fundraisers.

"Almost every weekend, there's an event," she said. "We think it shows just how much the officers' deaths impacted the community."

Last weekend alone, there were two car shows, a day of concerts at Channelside and a pasta fundraiser at three O'Brien's Irish Pub locations.

The local Police Benevolent Association has helped sponsor several events and plans a golf tournament. The union group wrote a $10,000 check to each officer's wife on June 29, the day the officers were shot to death at a traffic stop.

In the following weeks, the PBA collected $30,000 more for the widows in T-shirt sales and donations, said union senior vice president Rick Cochran.

He thinks the huge response is partly because two officers were killed and also because the search for the suspect lasted four days.

"Everybody's lives were revolving around the manhunt for several days," he said. "They were living it, watching it on TV."

Tampa police say there's about $260,000 in the memorial fund account at the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, which is still accepting donations.

But several groups that held fundraisers cut checks directly to the widows; that money isn't included in the fund total. For instance, a Brandon paintball tournament generated $13,000, a concert hosted by the Renegade Pigs Motorcycle Club collected $26,000, and Bubba the Love Sponge turned over $53,000.

In addition to private collections and donations, the widows qualify for these public and union funds:

• $311,810 from the U.S. Bureau of Justice's Public Safety Officers' Benefits Program;

• $178,366 from the city of Tampa, for families of officers unlawfully and intentionally killed;

• $150,000 workers' compensation paid by the city of Tampa;

• $30,000 from the state PBA and $10,000 from the local PBA;

• $25,000 from the state Crime Victim Compensation Program;

• $7,500 for funeral expenses, paid by the city of Tampa.

Under the city's pension plan for police officers, Kelly Curtis will receive $27,799 every year for the rest of her life. Her children will receive a total of $8,340 each year until the youngest turns 18. Sara Kocab will receive $24,211 a year.

Each widow's city-paid health insurance will remain in effect unless she remarries. Curtis' four children will have city health insurance while full-time students, until age 25.

And their college educations will be funded. The city of Tampa is required to pay for up to 120 credit hours at a state institution, and the Gold Shield Foundation, a group started by the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, has also offered to pay for college costs, including books, room and board.

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Radio host Bubba the Love Sponge Clem speaks at Tampa police headquarters Tuesday before presenting checks for $26,500 each to Sara Kocab, center, and Kelly Curtis, right, wives of slain Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Radio host Bubba the Love Sponge Clem speaks at Tampa police headquarters Tuesday before presenting checks for $26,500 each to Sara Kocab, center, and Kelly Curtis, right, wives of slain Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis.

Find out more about the fundraisers:

Visit http://www.tampagov.net/dept_police/

Click on the scrolling ad "Gone but not forgotten Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab." Then click on the "fundraisers" link.

Donate to the memorial fund:

Donations can be dropped off at any location of the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, or send a check payable to the Curtis/Kocab Fund, Tampa Police Memorial Committee, P.O. Box 172995, Tampa, FL 33672.



To give

Find out more about the fundraisers:

Visit www.tampagov.net/

dept_police. Click on the scrolling ad "Gone but not forgotten Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab." Then click on the "fundraisers" link.

• Donate to the memorial fund:

Donations can be dropped off at any location of the Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union, or send a check payable to the Curtis/Kocab Fund, Tampa Police Memorial Committee, P.O. Box 172995, Tampa, FL 33672.

When Tampa officers left widows, a community rallied 08/17/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 12:27pm]

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