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3 months. 4 bullets. 5 lives.

August 15, 2010

(collaboration with Lane DeGregory)

When their shift ended on Easter morning, the day was still dark.

After a couple of years working overnights, after catching countless druggies and drunks, Tampa police Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab were used to their days ending when everyone else’s were about to begin.

Their work that night had been routine. Curtis had driven prisoners to jail. Kocab had pulled people over for traffic violations.

At 6:30 a.m., after turning in their reports, they turned onto the highway. Each had a long drive home.

Curtis, 31, steered north, heading an hour to his house in Webster. He loved living up there, surrounded by acres of land where his four boys could zipline from trees.

Kocab, also 31, always drove into the dawn, more than an hour east, past old orange groves and shiny strip malls. Awaiting him at their Kissimmee home was his wife Sara, whose belly was just beginning to swell. By summer, they expected their first child.

That same morning, back in Tampa, two other young men were making plans for the day.

Derek Anderson, almost 21, was walking to his girlfriend’s house to make her breakfast and see his infant son. As always, he had a burgundy backpack slung over his shoulder.

And nearby, Harold Wright was planning to take time away from his busy job dealing drugs to have Easter dinner with his mother.

He had 64 days left to live.

The young dad with the burgundy backpack had 44.

And the cops had 86.

The only significant thing they had in common was the fifth man, the one they never saw coming

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