By Tamara Lusht
TAMPA, Fla. — Two Tampa police officers were killed in an early Tuesday shooting during a traffic stop that has prompted a massive manhunt for two people.
Officer David Curtis pulled over a red Toyota Camry around 2:15 a.m. because it didn't have a visible tag. He called for back up after a background check revealed the male passenger in the car was wanted on a misdemeanor charge for writing a worthless check in Jacksonville, Tampa Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
The two officers approached the passenger side of the car. Six minutes after the traffic stop, a witness called to say Curtis and Officer Jeffrey Kocab had been shot. Authorities arrived to find them lying on the ground. Kocab and Curtis, both 31, were pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
Helicopters, police dogs and dozens of officers in bullet proof vests searched for the passenger, who is believed to be the shooter. A female who was driving the car was also being sought, McElroy said.
Tampa police said they were searching for Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, and Cortnee Nicole Brantly, 22, who they described as persons of interest.
Police cordoned off an apartment building a few miles away, but no other details were available.
"We know they are armed and extremely dangerous," McElroy said. "We don't know what else they're capable of."
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor and Mayor Pam Iorio announced Kocab's death at a news conference at the hospital where the officers were taken. Dozens of somber officers filled the hospital.
Kocab had been on the force for 14 months. His wife is nine months pregnant with their first child, police said.
Curtis, a father of four boys, had nearly four years with the department. He remained on life support as doctors prepared to harvest his organs at the family's request.
"They both said how much Dave and Jeff loved being a Tampa police officer. They both said their loved ones loved going to work everyday...that it was the best job in the world," Mayor Pam Iorio said of the officers' families.
"It's just been heart wrenching as the family members have said goodbye to their loved ones and then it's been heart wrenching to see the officers and how much they respect them," she said.
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This is the region's second incident of law enforcers being shot in less than a week. Two Polk County deputies were shot early Friday in Lakeland after stopping a man riding a bicycle. They are expected to recover.