Thursday, June 21, 2018
Public safety

Man shot by state trooper at cemetery is business owner with no criminal record

PINELLAS PARK — The man shot by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper Monday morning at a Pinellas Park cemetery was the cemetery's owner — a Tampa man who lives in a 7,000-square-foot home, has no criminal history and has held a concealed-weapons permit.

Clifford F. Work remained hospitalized in fair condition Tuesday at Bayfront Medical Center as questions remained about why Trooper Daniel Cole, a 13-year FHP veteran, shot the 48-year-old businessman.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which is the latest in a string of incidents throughout Cole's career in which his actions have been scrutinized.

"Just because he acted properly or improperly in the past doesn't mean this act is proper or improper," said FHP spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins. "He was in the graveyard for a valid purpose. Unfortunately, things happen. It is what it is."

Cole entered the grounds of the Royal Palm North Cemetery on Gandy Boulevard about 6 a.m. Monday as he was tracking a signal from a LoJack theft-recovery system on a stolen motorcycle, officials said. The search led him to a garage at the rear of the cemetery grounds.

Cole called for backup and was soon joined by two Pinellas Park police officers. Work emerged as the trio approached. Work was armed, authorities said, and Cole shot him.

FHP officials did not provide more specific details Tuesday.

Reached at the hospital Tuesday, Work declined to comment.

"Right now, it's not the right time or the right place," he said.

Work referred questions to his attorney, Todd Vargo, who was in Work's hospital room Tuesday evening. Vargo also declined to say much about the shooting.

"He's basically getting his wounds taken care of," Vargo said. "He has some bad wounds to his leg area."

Work has no record of arrests in Florida, according to state records, and was licensed to carry concealed weapons. He is the owner of Work & Son Inc., a Tampa-based company that operates multiple cemeteries, including Royal Palm North.

The FDLE will determine whether Cole's actions were justified. The trooper is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

A year ago, Cole was the subject of another investigation after he used a Taser to subdue a handcuffed woman, who fell and struck her head on an asphalt parking lot. She subsequently went into a coma. In that case, Cole's use of the Taser was ruled justified.

The same was the case in 2001, when Cole shot a man in the hand during a traffic stop. In that incident, the man made a sudden movement toward Cole after reaching toward the car's floorboards while ignoring repeated commands to show his hands, troopers said. Cole shot the man, who turned out to be unarmed.

"There have been officers before who go their whole career and never draw their gun," Gaskins said. "And then there's officers that get in multiple shootouts with multiple suspects."

Dan Sullivan can be reached at (727) 893-8321 or [email protected]

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