By Karen Rodriguez
The recent death of two Tampa Police officers, David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, has shocked and saddened residents throughout the Bay area, but law enforcement personnel feel a special kind of pain.
In Pasco County, the death has caused officers to reminisce about their own lost colleague, Lt. Charles “Bo” Harrison, who died in 2003.
“The recent preparations of the funeral for the two Tampa officers have brought back many memories of when I had to prepare Harrison’s funeral,” said Sgt. Jason Marques of the Pasco County Sheriffs Office. Marques played his bugle at the funeral of Harrison, the last Pasco officer to die in the line of duty. “You see the pictures of the family mourning and I remember being in their shoes.”
Curtis and Kocab died early Tuesday. Police say they were both shot in the head by a suspect who remained on the loose last week. Harrison was shot while on overnight surveillance near a nightclub on U.S. Route 301 in Lacoochee, near Dade City. He had been with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office for 31 years, and his retirement date was only 15 days away.
Capt. Jack Armstrong from the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the recent Tampa officer deaths have had the same impact on the Pasco Sheriff’s office as Harrison’s death.
“It affected the entire Pasco police community,” he said. “I feel like we are bound by an invisible string that has once again connected us.”
“Law enforcement is a brotherhood,” explained Det. Chad Tadlock, also of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. “Anytime an officer dies, especially in the line of duty, everyone feels for the family and shows their respect.”
This brotherhood stands together when one of their own is slain and doesn’t care if they knew the dead officer or not.
Marques only knew officer Kocab’s face from being in the guard. But even though he didn’t know him personally, his first thought was, “How can I help find his killer?”
The suspect in the shooting of Curtis and Kocab, Dontae Morris, was still at large Friday afternoon, more than 72 hours after their fatal encounter in East Tampa.
“A lot of people don’t realize how hard a death of an officer hits home,” said Marques. “It’s hard to carry and say goodbye to one of your own.”
Marques relates to the current eagerness to find the man who killed Kocab and Curtis. However, his fervent impulse to join the search for Harrison’s killer was subdued by the necessity to properly honor him with his bugle at the funeral.
“I practiced 12 to 16 hours a day for weeks knowing I had a job to do and meanwhile I was grieving,” Marques said.
Luckily, within the week of the funeral, Harrison’s killer turned himself in, bringing closure to the Pasco law enforcement community.
“In this line of work you never know when it’s your time. But you have to be proactive and treat things as if it’s your last time doing it,” Marques said. “We have to live with the reality that our job is dangerous.”
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is one of many who offer counseling services that help individuals with any problems they may have. Along with the Central Florida Police Stress Unit, two of the most known services are The Chaplain Cure and COPS.
The Chaplain Cure, run mostly by volunteers, provides spiritual comfort to those who seek it. “All religions are represented and it is available at anytime, ” Tadlock said.
COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors) is a program that supports law enforcement survivors helping them to move on, forming a network of aid.
“These events make you realize that as an officer, you may think you are prepared to lose a colleague, but in reality you are not,” Marques said. “Even if you don’t know an officer who dies personally, the reminder that it can happen to any of us shakes up the police community as a whole.”
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