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Investigators say man shot by trooper fired first

PINELLAS PARK — The police chase that led to the shooting of a felon Monday began with two unbuckled seat belts, according to arrest reports.

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper heading south on Interstate 275 on Monday morning spotted a male driver and female passenger not wearing seat belts. Trooper Robert Ray turned on his lights, but the car didn't stop. Instead, it exited onto westbound Gandy Boulevard, where the man and woman "were involved in two separate hit-and-run crashes," according to FHP reports.

They reached the Villas at Gateway apartment complex, hopped out and ran.

Troopers searched the area and found passenger Haley Lorraine Thompson, 20, in a pond near the FedEx shipping center on MCI Drive. They saw driver Shane Leon Happel run toward a nearby field.

Trooper Phillip McMillan went into the field. Then, the reports say, Happel appeared in the tall grass, drew a .380-caliber handgun and fired once at McMillan, who left the field and took cover behind a car. He saw Happel heading toward him, still holding the gun. He drew his gun and shot Happel.

Happel, 35, was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where he was in serious condition Monday. His condition was not available late Tuesday.

In their investigation, troopers found that Happel and Thompson, while attempting to escape, had tried to carjack a FedEx employee. That victim said Happel had a gun and a backpack.

The backpack, found near the FedEx building, held Thompson's ID, a container and bag of crystal methamphetamine, a digital scale, baggies and a plastic tube with "white crystalized residue."

Troopers said Happel had been on inmate release status for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Happel of Spring Hill was charged with attempted first-degree murder, resisting an officer with violence, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, several drug possession charges and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Thompson of Hudson was charged with resisting an officer without violence, several drug possession charges and violating probation. She told the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is investigating the shooting, that she had smoked "spice" earlier that day.

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