Cemetery owner: Gunshots from State Trooper's AR-15 were like 'firecrackers'

FDLE report shows state trooper fired AR-15 rifle

TAMPA - It was a scene of confusion and conflicting stories, but an investigative report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement sheds new light on a violent encounter between a state trooper and a cemetery owner in September.

When trooper Daniel Cole approached Clifford Work's shed at his Gandy Boulevard cemetery, Cole told investigators he heard loud music coming from inside.  Cole stated he was on Work's property searching for a stolen motorcycle.  

The trooper banged loudly on the shed door, and heard a "loud and aggressive male voice inside the building yell "hold on," according to the report.

Work told investigators he heard the noise, and "he grabbed his gun because he thought he was being robbed," documents show.   Work eventually opened his shed door wielding his handgun, and was blinded by the light coming from a police  vehicle.

The FDLE report said "while awaiting backup, Trooper Cole removed his patrol rifle from the trunk of his patrol car because he felt 'so uncomfortable and I was alone."

The weapon was an AR-15, an assault rifle equipped with a laser sight.  Cole told investigators that when he saw Work holding the handgun, he was certain he was going to get shot.  

"The gun is right dead aimed at my head it seemed like. I could see full muzzle, full barrel, shadow of the bore, you know, and I fired," Cole said in the report.  "I basically fired until I could no longer see him."

Cole described how he moved to avoid return fire.  "It was the worst feeling ever and was just.. try to get out of the way of the bullet."

But there was no bullet fired from Work's gun.  

Instead, the cemetery owner received fire, and "remembered the gunshots as being like 'firecrackers,'" the report stated.  "The next thing he knew he was hit in the leg with a bullet and he fell down inside the building.  When he was on the ground he said 'stop shooting, stop shooting,  I am the owner.'"  

As many as 18 rounds were fired, and after the discharge, Work told investigators he was on the ground looking up at the barrel of Cole's gun, with the green laser pointed at his heart.

The 119-page document has two sides to the confrontation.  While trooper Cole claimed his life was in danger, and thus fired his weapon to protect himself, Work claimed he was sleeping on his own property, heard a noise, and opened his shed door to see what was happening, and wound up injured from gunfire.

FDLE did not comment on the details of its report, but Work's attorney has stated he has doubts about whether Cole's actions were justified. 

Cole has a history of internal affairs cases with the Florida Highway Patrol, including a high profile incident last year where he fired a stun gun at a handcuffed woman who fell and struck her head, leaving her in a coma.

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