TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — People in the Tampa community laced up their sneakers on Saturday as a way to honor the men and women who paid the ultimate price.
The 23rd Annual Tampa Police Memorial 5K/1-mile run and walk was held at Lykes Gaslight Park on Franklin Street at 8 a.m.
Families throughout the area joined 31 police officers who ran in memory of the 31 fallen Tampa officers who couldn’t be here.
“It was a blessed opportunity for us that we were afforded the opportunity to run for those who couldn’t run,” Officer Dora Delarosa said.
One of the officers killed in the line of duty that was honored during the run was Officer Dave Curtis.
Officer Delarosa remembers standing next to him as they were sworn in.
“It was one of those things that was surreal,” Delarosa said. “We couldn’t believe what had happened.”
Officer Curtis and Officer Jeffrey Kocab were shot and killed in June 2010 during a traffic stop that turned deadly.
“If they were here with us today, they’d be right here in the formation running for the rest of us,” said Officer Rose Castillo. “At any given day, that could happen to us and I hope that knock on wood someone would step in and run for me.”
“These officers, it sounds like a cliché, but there literally one call away from not returning home to their family,” Castillo added.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he remembers losing nine of the 31 fallen officers during his three decades at City Hall.
“When everyone else is running away from the scene, it’s these folks who are running in,” Buckhorn said. “It’s important that we remember them and just don’t forget them as some name catch on a stone. Those are real people who gave their lives for us.”
Interim Police Chief Brian Dugan wants the people of Tampa to know, especially in today’s politically-charged climate, his officers will be there.
“Whether you kneel or stand, when you call 911 the cops are going to show up,” he said.
That’s why runners like Fred Lay make it a family affair to thank the men and women who are sworn to protect and serve.
“These guys go out and they put themselves in harm’s way every day and certainly as a resident of this community, we certainly appreciate it,” Lay said.
Proceeds from Saturday’s event benefit the Police Museum, Memorial Scholarship Program, charitable donations and Tampa Police Memorial Monument improvements.
To learn more about the 31 fallen officers who were honored, visit the Tampa Police Memorial website.