A manhunt for the convicted felon accused of killing two Tampa police officers — and wanted for questioning in three other homicides — spread to north Florida on Thursday.
Jacksonville sheriff's officers received a tip that Dontae Rashawn Morris, 24, was in a neighborhood in that city, some 200 miles from where he is accused of gunning down two Tampa patrolmen early Tuesday morning.
Detectives in north Florida said they didn't find Morris, who has eluded capture despite an intense search that involves local, state and federal officers and a $100,000 reward.
In an interview with The Associated Press Thursday, Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said she had never worked such a brutal and emotionally draining case in 26 years with the force.
"I've never seen anything on this scale," she said. "From an individual that is so cold-blooded and vicious, and also on the scale of the manhunt. We have close to 200 officers at any given time searching for him. The fact that we have put that much consistent pressure on the community and he has been able to stay below the surface is very surprising to me."
Castor said she believes someone — or several people — are helping Morris hide, if he isn't dead somewhere. Police are seeking Morris' brother, 21-year-old Dwayne Daniel Callaway. He was wanted on two counts of violating probation on a domestic battery charge, and detectives want to question him about Morris.
The Tampa man's crime spree began, police said, upon his release from prison on cocaine charges April 4. Morris — who sports tattoos on his left arm that say "Dead," "Evil" and "Love" — returned to his hometown of Tampa.
On May 18, a 21-year-old man named Derek Anderson was fatally shot outside of his family's apartment in Tampa. Detectives thought the killer tried to take Anderson's backpack, then shot him.
No arrests were made in that case. Morris is also wanted for questioning in two other homicides in recent months; Castor won't release details about those.
The chief said officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis knew nothing about Morris' possible involvement in the other three homicides when they pulled over the car in which he was riding.
Curtis, originally from Mobile, Ala., was a married father of four and Kocab's wife is nine months pregnant. On Thursday evening, their names will be etched into the granite monument dedicated to fallen Tampa police officers that sits outside headquarters. A wake is scheduled Friday and the funeral is set for Saturday.
Meanwhile, hundreds of officers clad in full body armor are combing neighborhoods in Tampa in hopes of finding Morris. On Wednesday, officers evacuated an entire apartment complex and searched every unit, while tanks blocked off nearby streets.
"If he's moving about, anything could happen," Castor said. "It's important for the community to know who we are dealing with."
Mayor Pam Iorio was frustrated by the long search.
"In the past, when we've had an officer's death, the police were able to apprehend the killer almost right away. In this case, now we're going on several days without apprehending him and he's a cold-blooded killer," she said. "It's been the darkest days of my time as mayor, every time we have lost an officer, and this one is absolutely horrific."