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Widow of fallen Tampa officer speaks out against David Straz for ‘insensitive’ ads

The ads showed the former police chief wearing a mourning badge.

The widow of a fallen Tampa Police Officer is speaking out against David Straz over a campaign mailer she says is disrespecting the mourning badge officers wear after a colleague is killed in the line of duty.

Kelly Curtis-Stout lost her husband, David Curtis, nine years ago after he and his partner Jeffrey Kocab were shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

Tampa mayoral candidate Jane Castor was the Chief of Police at that time.

An Electioneering Communication Organization called Tampa’s Bright Future is affiliated with Straz’s campaign. The campaign claims Straz himself is funding the organization, which was assembled to send election communication advocating for or against political candidates.

Tampa’s Bright Future sent out at least one direct mail flier and produced at least one digital ad showing Castor in uniform, including the black and blue band officers wear around their badge after an officer dies to show their mourning and respect.

Curtis-Stout and the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, which endorsed Castor, both say the photo was taken in the immediate aftermath of the Curtis and Kocab murders.

“Those responsible for the ad chose to use the photo of Jane that was taken during the time that she and and all of us in Tampa were mourning the death of our officers,” Curtis-Stout said during a press conference Friday afternoon. She then repeated the names of her husband and his partner.

“I say their names again because it is clear to me that whomever would use a photo of an officer wearing a mourning badge has no knowledge or memory of who they are and what they meant to their families and to the city.”

One of the ads in question shows the photo of Castor alongside text that describes the 2015 Tampa Bay Times “biking while black” expose that uncovered disproportionate civil citations and arrests for black residents for minor biking infractions. It slams Castor for not respecting certain Tampa citizens.

“This is not the person that I know,” Curtis-Stout said. “Jane is kind and compassionate and fair to everyone in our community.”

She continued explaining Castor’s personal attention to her family while they were grieving the loss of Curtis, and the effect that had on the couple’s four young sons aged 9, 6, 5 and 8-months at the time. 

“During the lowest and most painful times of my life, Jane was right there for me and not just Monday through Friday, 9-5,” Curtis-Stout said. “Jane hosted sleepovers and boat rides so that my boys could play with her boys and forget, even if just for a moment, what terrible tragedy had just occurred.

The Straz campaign responded, saying the photo had nothing to do with the tragic killing of two officers.

“The campaign’s criticism on Jane Castor has been focused on the “biking while black” scandal under her watch, her stance on Red Light Cameras and that is it,” the campaign offered in a written statement. “Our campaign has never said anything about the tragic death of two police officers. We would never highlight or point out anything related to that tragic day.”

The campaign defended its use of the photo arguing Castor has used photos of herself as an officer and chief in her own campaign materials. Questioning her record as chief, they said, is fair game.

The campaign said they got the image from a Politico article from 2012 touting the “who’s who” of Tampa.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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