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Dontae Morris Police Shooting: Video shows Tampa officers' final moments

6:29 PM, Mar 25, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - It happened in an instant.

Two beloved officers lost their lives during what was supposed to be a routine traffic stop on June 29, 2010.

See Also: Thin blue line honors Tampa's fallen officers

The graphic incident was caught on dash-cam video from Officer David Curtis' cruiser. Until now, no one outside the investigation has seen that video. But after repeated requests from the media, a judge ruled that the video can be viewed only at the State Attorneys Office.

It was made clear to the 19 journalists who were in the room, they were not to record or reproduce the video in any way.

The video starts at 2:11 a.m., and rap music can be heard in Officer Curtis' cruiser.  He begins following a maroon Camry with an unregistered tag. He pulls the car over and begins talking with Cortnee Brantley, who was driving the car.

Her boyfriend, Dontae Morris, was in the passenger seat.

He identified himself to officers saying,"Morris... Dontae.  D-O-N-T-A-E M-O-R-R-I-S."  He also provides his birthdate.

After Officer Curtis takes Brantley's license and registration for processing, he walks back to his car. It takes him seven minutes.

He then is seen walking back to the passenger side of the car and is heard saying to Morris, "What's the deal with your warrant?"

Officer Jeffrey Kocab then walks over and joins his partner near the passenger's side of Brantley's car. 

Morris is told to get out of the car, and he complies.  The officers surrounded Morris and were just feet away from him.

Then, it happens.

In a swift and sweeping motion, Morris is seen pulling a gun out of his shorts, turning to the officers and shooting each of them at close range in the head.

The two men fall into a heap on the grass, one nearly on top of the other.

It's a startling sight.

The 19 reporters and photographers who watched the video on Friday were stunned and let out an audible gasp when they watched the moment when the officers were shot. Several of them walked out of the room.

It seemed like forever that the officers lay in the grass, as the scratchy, crackling audio from the scanner continued to garble.

After the officers were gunned down, Brantley screeches away at 2:19 in her car, flooring it so hard that she is seen running over the officers' legs.

At 2:20, three women walk up and begin screaming and calling 911.  "Oh my god," they yell.  "He's breathing."

At roughly 2:23, officers begin to arrive, one after the other, after the other - each one of the desperate to help.

They perform CPR, breathlessly asking the men to hang on.  "C'mon buddy," they say.

"Hold on, baby," a woman is heard saying.

The video is 15 minutes and 25 seconds.  It is a short period of time that changed countless lives.

Police Chief Jane Castor released the following statement on Friday:

"The release of the dash-cam video will bring back many emotions for Dave and Jeff's families, our officers and me. We respect the judge's decision and the media's access to Florida's public records; however, we see no public value in anyone viewing this video outside of a jury. While this will be very difficult for us all, we will get through this with the continued support of our law enforcement family and the community.

"The Tampa Police Department will continue its thorough investigation of this case and will bring to justice anyone found to have participated in these murders." 

Morris' defense team fought to keep material such as this sealed.   His attorneys maintained that releasing this before his trial would deny Morris a fair trial.

However, a judge made a ruling this week that the video could be shown under the condition that it was not to leave the State Attorney's Office.

Currently, Morris stands accused of five murders - Officer David Curtis and Officer Jeffrey Kocab on June 29th, in addition to Harold Wright on June 8th, Derek Anderson on May 18th and Rodney Jones on May 31st.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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