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Fallen officer's comrades say goodbye

A steady stream of police officers from virtually every city in Pinellas County paid their final respects Thursday afternoon to a fallen comrade.

At Moss-Feaster Funeral Home in Largo, two officers kept a constant vigil at the head and foot of the casket that held Jeffery Tackett, the Belleair police officer killed Sunday night while trying to arrest a burglar at Pelican Place condominiums.

Near the casket in a darkened room of the funeral home was a wall of flowers of all colors. An American flag and a Florida state flag were crossed on the wall above. Inside the casket, friends had placed mementos including golf balls, photographs, a "Gators" shirt and a cup. Tackett was not dressed in his police uniform, but his badge was attached to his belt. Family members and friends comforted each other at the casket.

Tackett, 28, bled to death a few feet from the condominium complex after being shot in the groin with his own gun.

A few hours after his death, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office arrested Lorenzo Lamar Jenkins, 31, and charged him with first-degree murder. He remains in the Pinellas County Jail without bail.

Many of the officers who visited the funeral home Thursday were Tackett's friends. Some said they had fished, camped or played golf with him. Tackett had been a member of the Belleair force for five years.

"A few years ago, one of my young officers, who was an avid camper, invited me to go camping over at a state park in Hillsborough County," said Bill Mangum, Belleair Bluffs police chief.

"Jeff was there. We sat over there having fun telling cop stories," Mangum said. "That's how I'm going to remember Jeff."

Across the street from the funeral home at Largo City Hall, employees had lowered the flag of Belleair's neighboring city to half-staff. Belleair's town flag has been flying at half-staff all week.

The funeral, at 2 p.m. today, will be at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road in Largo. More than 1,000 police officers, firefighters and paramedics from across the state are expected. Tackett is to be buried at Serenity Gardens Memorial Park, 13401 Indian Rocks Road in Largo.

A group of business executives are offering a $2,500 reward for the recovery of the handcuffs used by Tackett during the attempted arrest of his assailant Sunday.

The executives, who wished to remain anonymous, set up an account with the money at Trust Bank. Anyone with information should call Pinellas County sheriff's detectives at 587-6200.