LUTZ — The funeral service for two slain Tampa police officers drew to a somber close Saturday to the sound of Taps and 21-gun salutes for each patrolman amid an afternoon rain shower.
Police officers from throughout the Tampa Bay area — and some from as far away as California and Minnesota — stood at attention around Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz after a nearly three-hour service for Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis.
A procession of police helicopters flew in formation over the church as an honor guard carried the caskets to two hearses. Eight officers carried each casket from the church, sliding them into hearses at precisely the same moment.
Then a 911 dispatcher, following the tradition of police funerals, issued a last call for the fallen officers, asking the officers to "please respond." The dispatcher then said the officers had "ended their watch."
"Let them never be forgotten," the dispatcher said at 12:44 p.m., "and God rest their souls."
There was no motorcade procession to the two private graveside burial services.
It was a day of tears, shared grief, and even some laughter. Kocab and Curtis were remembered as devoted family men who loved life and served their community selflessly, dying at the job they loved so much.
"They're gone from us today but their lives and service will never be forgotten," Tampa police Chief Jane Castor told mourners.
The officers' flag-draped caskets stood at the front of the church as eulogies by friends and family recalled their zest for life and career.
Charlie Helm, a Plant City police officer and friend of Kocab, said, "I never met anybody in this line of work who loved the job more than him."
Chris Bowers, Curtis' father-in-law, said Curtis was "full of life" and loved his family. "With the help of God and our faith, I really think we can get through this difficult phase."
As mourners gathered before the funeral, two riderless horses led a pair of hearses to the entrance of Idlewild and six bagpipers and a drummer played a sorrowful Amazing Grace as family entered the church.
But even in this time of remembrance, the thoughts of some were on Dontae Morris, the suspect charged in the shooting death of the officers.
As Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee entered the church, he said he was happy about Morris' arrest late Friday night. But he said, "We can't lose sight of why we're here. I can't put a smile on my face. ... Now the reality is that they're not coming home."
The Rev. John Hays, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church, gave the eulogy for Curtis and said that during the officers' wake Friday night some thoughts were on the man suspected of killing the officers.
A "veil was over us all that this person was still on the loose. And so many of you sacrificed your time ... hunting for this person. And then last night before I shut my eyes to sleep" he heard the news of the arrest.
"And our prayer now is that he will be brought to justice, for God is a just god," Hays said.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said, "Officer Curtis and Kocab, their families tell me, sought the excitement of getting the bad guy. They excelled as police officers. Had they been given gift of longevity, they undoubtedly would have risen in the ranks."
Perhaps the most touching moment came when Curtis' father-in-law, Chris Bowers, told mourners a story about how Curtis had given his wife, Kelly, four roses the day before he died – one rose for each son.