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California company raises money to create short film of unforgettable Tampa police killer

TAMPA — He followed the scanner religiously, so then-Mayor Dick Greco rarely struggled with police jargon. But something about that call on May 19, 1998, struck him as odd.

How could a man in Sulphur Springs accidentally shoot a 4-year-old in the face?

Thus began the rampage of Hank Earl Carr, who would go on to murder two police detectives and a state trooper in one of the darkest days in Tampa law enforcement history. The carnage would end after a high-speed chase north on Interstate 75 and a five-hour standoff in a Hernando County gas station, when Carr, a 30-year-old criminal with a rap sheet in two states, shot himself to death.

"That's one of the things that will stay indelible in my mind forever and forever," said Greco, 81, who was on scene. "I'll never forget that incident ever."

Starting last week, a small California production company began raising money via Indiegogo to create a short film adaptation of that violent day.

The project, aptly named Cornered, has a slight political bent, said Claire Jennings, an assistant with Sixth Sense Productions. Jennings said Tuesday that Sixth Sense, which has produced a short feature film and is currently at work on television pilots, relied on crowd funding because of the movie's deeper message that encourages smarter gun laws.

"We really wanted this to engage the gun activism community," Jennings said.

As of Tuesday night, the company had raised nearly $1,300. Sixth Sense needs $50,000 to create the short film, ideally between 15 and 30 minutes long, Jennings said.

A few former leaders said they would see the film. But for those closest to the murders, the events of that day already spin like a never-ending reel.

"How could I forget?" asked Bennie Holder, Tampa's police chief at that time.

Holder received the news while patrolling the streets. He rushed to the scene and found two of his brightest detectives, Ricky Childers, 46, and Randy Bell, 44, dead.

Days before, Childers, Bell and Holder shared an elevator, their offices a floor apart. Between idle chitchat, they swapped good news.

Bell was scheduled to transfer to internal affairs the following week because he was such a formidable investigator, Holder said Tuesday. And Childers exuded the natural charisma that made him beloved among the force.

Then, "within an amount of hours, we lost four human beings," Holder said.

Greco remembered returning from afternoon tile shopping with his wife. He steered down the Floribraska Avenue exit on Interstate 275 and came upon the nearby crime scene.

On the side of the road, he noticed a police officer crying and walked up. What was going on? he asked.

The officer directed him to a cruiser splattered with blood.

A short time later, a Florida Highway Patrol deputy told Greco that Carr had shot to death a trooper during the interstate chase that followed.

The trooper was later identified as rookie James "Brad" Crooks.

As homicide detectives, Childers and Bell investigated that morning call about Carr shooting his girlfriend's 4-year-old son with a high-powered rifle.

Tricked by false information that was corroborated by his girlfriend, Bernice Bowen, the detectives mistook Carr for a man with no criminal record. They put him in the back seat of an unmarked Ford Taurus with no protective screen.

What they didn't know was, Carr kept a handcuff key around his neck.

While driving him from the apartment to police headquarters just before 2 p.m., Carr used that key to free his hands.

Then — before the high-speed chase, and before he kept a 27-year-old gas station clerk hostage for five hours — he grabbed the gun from Childers' holster. He shot both officers to death, police said, retrieved his rifle from the vehicle's trunk and fled.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Zack Peterson at zpeterson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368. Follow @zackpeterson918.

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