Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor said Thursday that the man accused of killing two Tampa police officers is a person of interest in two other homicide cases and a suspect in a third.
Dontae Morris is officially a suspect in the shooting death of Derek Anderson, 21, the chief said, which occurred at the Kenneth Court Apartments on May 18.
Anderson’s aunt, Latasa Williams, says a week after Derek's death, the word on the street was a man named Dontae was the shooter.
"So we provided that information to the detectives that were working with us,” said Williams.
The family says people were questioned but nothing came of it. Not until the morning the officers were shot. Dereks' sister got a call to turn on the news. Dontae's picture came on the screen.
"They showed the face, and I said, ‘that's Qwolo’ and that's when I put it together," said Tamora Dorn, Derek's sister.
Qwolo is Dontae's nickname and it’s the only name Tamora knew him by. She knew Qwolo from the neighborhood, but never talked to him.
Derek's family says they are glad to have a name connected to his murder. But they are also angry and frustrated. They believe detectives did a good job in Derek's case but believe people who were questioned could have been pushed more.
"It shouldn't have to be that way because if they found my nephew's killer earlier these men would have been living. They could have been with their families," said Williams, brushing tears from her face.
Meantime, Derek's mother still wants her son's killer found.
"if he's any kind of man, turn yourself in. you're already in hot water, just turn yourself in., " said Wanda Gilchrist.
Morris has also been named a person of interest in two other homicide cases, which also happened sometime after he was released from prison in April. Chief Castor declined to release details of these cases because she did not want the ongoing investigations jeopardized in any way. She did say that all of the victims were targeted and that Morris should not be considered a serial killer.
"I think that it's important for the community to know who we're dealing with here," Castor said in a Thursday morning news conference at the search command post. "In my opinion, the community at large is not in danger or in peril at this time, but, if he is moving about, you know, anything could happen."
"If there is someone out there who is harboring him, they are making a huge mistake because eventually he will be captured and whoever is helping him will end up in jail too," added Mayor Pam Iorio, emphasizing that the intensity of the search for Morris will not let up until he is found.
SEARCH FOR MORRIS CONTINUES
The mayor also said that any street closures or building evacuations related to the search were a "small inconvenience" when the goal of the searches is taken into account.
Law enforcement is beginning to get frustrated as the manhunt for the suspected killer is in its third day, but search efforts have intensified. The police chief and mayor again stated that capturing Morris was the city's number one priority.
Police at the command post on 50th Street sped out of the area numerous times Wednesday night and Thursday morning to check out all tips and leads that came in.
Castor said law enforcement was continuing to track down several very important leads.
An active search Thursday morning in the area of North Boulevard and Willow Avenue, along with one at a construction business at 50th Street and Hillsborough Avenue, were called off after nothing was found.
"It's hard to believe that since this has happened that he has not talked to anyone, he has not seen anyone," Tampa Police Lt. Brian Dugan said of Morris earlier Thursday. "I'm not buying that. It's disappointing that someone has not turned him in. Somebody has to know where he is, and that is a severe sense of disappointment for me."
Police announced Wednesday that they are also looking for Morris' brother, Dwayne Callaway, because they want to question him about Morris' whereabouts.
REWARD REACHES $100,000
There is a $100,000 reward for Morris' capture, the largest reward ever offered in the death of a Tampa police officer. Though the search has stretched to the the state and the nation, police believe that Morris is still in the Tampa area.
The officers hard at work are still grieving the loss of Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, who were shot and killed during a traffic stop early Tuesday morning. Police say Morris was the passenger in that car who pulled the trigger when the officers went to arrest him on an outstanding warrant for a bad check.
The driver of the vehicle, Cortnee Brantley, was briefly taken into custody for questioning Tuesday afternoon but later released. Police say she could still face charges after Morris is captured.
A funeral is scheduled for Saturday morning for Kocab and Curtis, but many of the law enforcement officers at the command post will likely stay there, continuing the investigation, if Morris has not been caught by then.
Digital billboards around Tampa and in other parts of the state have been updated with the latest reward information in the search for Morris, and the billboards will stay up until he is caught.
America's Most Wanted has also posted Morris' picture on their website and will mention him on this weekend's show if he still hasn't been located.
Morris has a lengthy criminal history, including two prison sentences for cocaine possesion, and was acquitted on attempted murder charges. He is considered armed and dangerous.
A reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for killing Officers Kocab and Curtis now stands at $100,000. Information on this case can be called in to 1-800-873-TIPS (8477), reported anonymously online at www.crimestopperstb.com or by texting "CSTB" plus your tip to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637).
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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