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CHIEF: WE GOT HIM

Dontae Morris turns himself in peacefully. He's charged in the officers' deaths and another slaying.

The largest manhunt in city history ended peacefully Friday night when the man suspected of fatally shooting two Tampa police officers surrendered.

Dontae Rashawn Morris was wanted in the killings of police officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab early Tuesday morning. He turned himself in through a third party about 10:15 p.m.

"I can't tell you how relieved the men and women of the Tampa Police Department are," police Chief Jane Castor said at 11:05 p.m.

"I stand by my definition of him as a cold-blooded killer," Castor added, "but I want everyone to know that he's an anomaly, and he doesn't represent our community, the goodness of our community, and thank God he's behind bars right now."

Morris, 24, also was charged Friday night with a third murder, that of 21-year-old Derek Anderson, who was gunned down in May. Police say Morris also is a suspect in another homicide and a person of interest in a fifth slaying.

Curtis and Kocab, both 31, were each shot in the head after Curtis pulled over a 1994 Toyota Camry about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday. After discovering an active arrest warrant for Morris, a passenger in the Camry, Curtis called for backup and Kocab arrived.

Morris somehow managed to kill both and ran into the darkness, police said. He spent the next four days eluding hundreds of local, state and federal officers who offered a $100,000 reward, pursued nearly 400 tips and combed east Tampa for him.

Castor said she was especially happy that Morris was arrested before today's funeral for Curtis and Kocab.

"I can never remember a point in my life when I felt more relief than upon hearing the news that Dontae Morris is under arrest," she said. "And to be able to provide Dave and Jeff the honorable tribute that they deserve tomorrow with him behind bars is even that much sweeter."

Castor said the driver of the Camry, 22-year-old Cortnee Nicole Brantley, also was arrested by sheriff's officials in Brandon Friday night and would be charged federally with witnessing a felony and not reporting it. She may also face other charges, Castor said.

"This is a very emotional evening for every police officer and every law enforcement officer in the bay area," Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said. "Tonight everyone in Tampa can sleep easier because Dontae Morris is off the street."

Anderson's aunt, Natasha Williams, was picking up her boyfriend from work at the St. Pete Times Forum when a niece called and told her Morris had turned himself in. She immediately sped to police headquarters because she wanted to see him.

"This means so much to my family," Williams said. "My sister's on her knees right now crying and praying. And words cannot express how good this feels."

The Morris family's pastor, John Anderson said he had been praying for Morris to turn himself in. He was at church when he heard the news. "My prayers are answered," he said.

'Up to his eyeballs'

Morris is now charged with three homicides, is a suspect in a fourth and a person of interest in a fifth.

The charges cover the two officers and the shooting of Anderson. The fourth killing in which he is a suspect is of Harold Wright, who was shot last month. He also is a "person of interest" in an unspecified fifth homicide in Tampa.

Wright, 25, of Valrico, was found shot in the head, lying beside a road in the Palm River-Clair Mel area just after midnight June 8.

The motive appeared to be drug-related, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said.

"He's involved up to his eyeballs," Gee said of Morris.

Wright's aunt, Claudette Michel, said she saw her nephew the day before he was killed, and he was carrying three bags of marijuana.

"He was a nice person, but he was selling drugs," said Michel, 55. "His mama kept begging him to leave them alone, but he wouldn't."

Michel said she suspects her nephew's death was the result of a setup drug deal. Wright routinely carried around thousands of dollars.

Michel said she's heard more than one name floated in connection with her nephew's death, but rumors of Morris' connection became more plausible after she heard about the officers' deaths.

"It makes you wonder," she said.

On Thursday, Castor announced that Morris is a suspect in the killing of Anderson, who was shot at an apartment complex searched by police this week.

Police discovered new information in some of the homicides during the search for Morris.

For example, in the fatal Tampa shooting where he is a person of interest, they didn't know he might be involved until they talked to someone this week who knows him, Castor said.

'Tired and mad'

The command center at the heart of the manhunt was like a small city.

Generators purred day and night. Car engines idled. Assault rifle-toting officers reviewed databases, discussed strategy, explored new leads.

More than 200 city officers, county deputies, state investigators and federal agents from 15 agencies came and went. They needed water. They needed to be fed. They needed to sleep, shower and rest.

On Monday, the site was the parking lot of a company that auctions used cars. By dawn Tuesday, it was crowded with RV-like mobile command centers, police cruisers, unmarked cars and television news trucks.

Up went big military-style green tents and small canopies like at an outdoor art show. They provided cover for laptop computers, briefing areas and chow lines. Everything officials needed, down to cell phone chargers, had to be right there.

The first day, two men and a woman drove up with a few buckets of chicken and it continued: Cuban sandwiches. Pallets of bottled water. Meals from Outback Steakhouse, McDonald's, Moxie's Cafe Downtown, Moe's Southwest Grill. Bottles of Monster energy drink and Red Bull.

Police work without expecting a thank you, Castor said, so "to see this outpouring of support is very moving."

Inside the main command centers, 10 to 20 people from various agencies worked at any given time. There was little talk of rank and no sense of ego, Castor said. Many came in on their days off. The work was cathartic.

"The officers, they just need to have that closure," Castor said. "They want to be a part of bringing Dontae Morris to justice."

'Show us respect'

In the sprawling Kenneth Court apartment complex that Morris used to frequent, the police remained a constant presence through Friday.

Some residents understood the need, while others were tired of the intrusion.

"We all feel like prisoners, like we are being held hostage," said Sherell Mitchell, 24. Seven months pregnant, she was seething about the hours she spent Wednesday afternoon with her two young children, locked out by a police barricade. "They said, 'No one's getting in and no one's getting out.' "

Told of residents' complaints, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said, "It's certainly not our intention to inconvenience or harass the people of this neighborhood."

Earlier Friday, residents said they were cooperating, though some were growing resentful. Younger residents, in particular, expressed frustration.

"If they want our help, they need to show us some respect," said Denise Holder, 22.

Her uncle is former police Chief Bennie Holder, she said, so she understood the situation.

"I'm upset," she said. "It's two less (officers) that can't protect me. But for them to act the way they are, it's not professional. Y'all got the weapons. We don't."

Nearby on bustling Hillsborough Avenue, police in unmarked cars and trucks waited in parking lots, occasionally lurching into traffic to pull over drivers they wanted to question.

About 11:45 a.m., black-vested officers pulled over a bronze Buick and approached with shotguns raised. Two minutes later, they lowered their guns and let the driver go.

"They're looking at anyone who's young and black and skinny," Mitchell said. "My dad was driving a day care van. He's 52, and they were harassing him."

Devon White, 26 and recently released from prison, said police had questioned him repeatedly. He said they told him: "C'mon man, we know you know. Just tell us what he's wearing."

White understood that police "have to take precautions. But we have a life to live. We got kids, and we live here, too."

He also understood that residents have every incentive to tell police what they know, given the $100,000 reward.

"Everybody says if they see him, they'll turn him in," White said. "That's a lot of money. That's a new life."

Times staff writers Andy Boyle, Danny Valentine, Bill Varian, Kim Wilmath, Marlene Sokol, Katie Sanders, photographer Willie J. Allen Jr. and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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