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Deadly Rampage

photo
Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder, left, talks with press. Behind him are Deputy Chief Ken Taylor and Major Tina Wright. [Times photo: Mike Pease]
Among police, 'the world is
paralyzed; everybody is crying'

By SUSAN CLARY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 20, 1998


TAMPA -- As news spread of the murders of two well-known Tampa police detectives and a highway patrol trooper Tuesday, a blanket of grief enveloped the area's law enforcement community.

Dozens of veteran police officers cried openly at the scene in
• Detective hailed as hero, professional, friend

• Among police, 'the world is paralyzed; everybody is crying'

• Trooper had been on job less than year

• Detective Bell just weeks away from 'dull' job

• Carr lived as he died: in violence

• Made-for-TV tragedy unfolded too quickly for live reports

• Caseworkers received allegations of abuse

• Handcuff procedures questioned

Tampa where the two detectives died. Shocked city officials tried awkwardly to comfort them. Reporters and photographers hugged each other.

Rick Childers and Randy Bell had clearly touched many lives. And while they didn't know Trooper James B. Crooks, his death, apparently at the hands of the same man police say killed the detectives, deepened the agony.

"Without a doubt, this is the worst I have seen things in 25 years," said Chief Bennie Holder. "These were just two outstanding individuals."

The detectives were driving Hank Earl Carr to police headquarters for questioning in the shooting death of a 4-year-old boy, authorities said, when Carr somehow got free and shot the two men before escaping.

Some officers looked inside the Ford Taurus where the detectives' bodies remained to see it for themselves. Others stayed away.

"I can't get close to it because I knew them so well," said Tampa police Capt. Sam Diaz as he leaned against his car, his eyes filled with tears.

photo
The badge of a Tampa police lieutenant is ribboned in black early Tuesday evening, following the deaths of Childers and Bell. [Times photo: Mike Pease]
Lt. George McNamara, former head of the homicide division, cried and hid his face as he waved people away from the scene. Another detective crouched down, his face in his hands.

"These were two good men who didn't deserve to die like that," said Tampa fire Marshal Melvin Stone. "I just lost two good friends."

The Rev. Prentiss Davis, a Tampa police chaplain, placed his hand on the shoulders of officers, offering his help. He said no one can prepare for such a disastrous day.

"This is a very black day in this community," Davis said. "It is much more devastating because it was without rhyme or reason and a total disregard for human life."

Crime prevention assistant Julia Junquera was at Tampa police headquarters when news of the slayings tore through the building.

"The world is paralyzed," Junquera said. "Everybody is crying. Everybody is upset."

Some officers were too stunned to move. One officer stood alone near his squad car in the parking lot of the old police headquarters on Tampa Street, holding the car door open, poised to get in. But he just stood there staring blankly at the ground, saying nothing, immobile.

"It's going to be tough," Holder said at an early evening news conference. "Unfortunately, we're in a business where whenever we suffer a loss, we can't close up shop and grieve. Internally, we'll make sure they get the support and counseling they need."

photo
Dennis Duggan, Tampa Police Department employee, lowers flag to half staff at One Police Center. [Times photo: Mike Pease]
Even those who didn't know the officers were affected.

"It hurts everybody," said Officer Sean Bell. "It's like losing a family member, even if you don't know him."

As a Florida Highway Patrol trooper testified in a Tampa courtroom Tuesday, his beeper kept going off. Circuit Judge Cynthia Holloway recessed the trial when she learned it was because two Tampa officers and a trooper had been killed.

And as she tried to explain to the jury what had happened, the judge's voice broke.

"I apologize for my emotions," Holloway said to the jury, her eyes filled with tears. "These are two very well-respected detectives with the Tampa Police Department who testified in this courtroom on numerous occasions."

She added later: "They were a class act."
-- Times staff writers Sue Carlton, Larry Dougherty, Kathryn Wexler and Wayne Washington contributed to this report.

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