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Trooper exonerated in Pinellas cemetery shooting

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PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

The FHP Inspector General has cleared State Trooper Daniel Cole of any wrongdoing the morning he fired 18 rounds from his assault rifle, and wounded a Pinellas Park cemetery owner during an ill-fated stolen motorcycle investigation.

The report, finalized last month and released today, cites a prior criminal investigation of the shooting that concluded "Cole's actions during this incident were justified and in accordance with FHP Policy."

Cole made headlines in an earlier incident when he used a taser on a woman who was running from him at an FHP substation after he arrested her. She fell and struck her head causing brain injuries.

The trooper also shot a motorist once who he thought was reaching for a gun during a traffic stop. Investigations in both cases cleared Cole of wrongdoing.

It was foggy and still dark the morning of September 10 last year when Cole tracked a LoJack signal--indicating a stolen vehicle--into the Royal Palm Cemetery in Pinellas Park near I-275. At the time Clifford Work, the cemetery's owner, was sleeping in a shed with a radio blaring.

Work awoke to the sound of someone banging on the door and said he wasn't aware it was a state trooper and Pinellas Park police officers who had arrived for backup.

He opened the door with a gun in his hand and the trooper opened fire with his assault rifle, peppering the shed with 18 rounds and striking Work once in the thigh. Work was seriously wounded, but survived.

The IG report concludes that Cole was in reasonable fear of his life when Work sprung open the door with a .45-caliber pistol in his hand. The 19 page report ends with a single capitalized word: "EXONERATED."

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