Monday, April 23, 2018
Public safety

Wounded Pinellas cemetery owner's lawyer looks at suing trooper

PINELLAS PARK — Although a Florida Highway Patrol trooper who shot a cemetery owner on his property was cleared by state officials, the man's lawyer said his client should never have been shot.

"We still have very, very large concerns about whether or not this shooting should have ever happened," said attorney Todd Vargo.

On Sept. 10, Clifford F. Work, 48, was sleeping in a maintenance shed at Royal Palm North Cemetery at 6200 Gandy Blvd. when Trooper Daniel Cole entered the property tracing the signal of a stolen motorcycle.

Work heard a knock at the door. He picked up his handgun and opened the door. Moments later, Cole, fearing for his life, fired 15 shots from a rifle, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation released to the Tampa Bay Times this week.

Cole was cleared of wrongdoing after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But for Vargo, the case is not over. The attorney plans to review every piece of evidence in the case, including photographs, audio, statements and video surveillance from Cole's car to decide whether he will be filing a civil lawsuit against the trooper.

"We have a ways to go before we responsibly move on whether or not to seek that civil lawsuit," Vargo said. "Our position is that the shooting should never have occurred."

Also, Florida Highway Patrol will conduct an internal review of the shooting, said spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins.

"Now that the criminal part is over, the internal part begins," said Gaskins. It was unclear how long the review would take.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has no plans to launch its own probe of the shooting, said prosecutor Mark McGarry.

But the State Attorney's Office did meet with FDLE investigators days after the shooting to "advise on some legal issues," McGarry said.

The stolen motorcycle that Cole tracked inside the cemetery is still part of the investigation, and no arrests have been made, said Pinellas Park Police spokesman Sgt. Brian Unmisig.

Detectives were still trying to figure out how the motorcycle ended up in the cemetery, Unmisig said.

Work's name has not come up in that investigation.

"There's nothing that points to that now," Unmisig said.

Cole returned to work several days after the shooting, Gaskins said.

Work began settling back into work a few days ago, Vargo said, because he suffered complications from the wound to his leg.

"He is lucky to be alive," Vargo said.

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