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Trooper Daniel Cole: Trigger-happy trooper or loyal hero?

7:34 PM, Dec 3, 2012   |    comments
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  • Florida Highway Trooper Daniel Cole
  • Gene Lofgren, a 69-year-old former auxiliary member of FHP speaks about former co-worker, Florida Highway Trooper Daniel Cole
    
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Pinellas Park, Florida - For the first time ever, a retired member of the Florida Highway Patrol is speaking out, defending his controversial colleague, Trooper Daniel Cole. 

Some say the veteran trooper is "trigger happy" since he's been involved in three high profile cases - two shootings and one tazing - in his career.

Photo Gallery: Dash cam images of woman's tazing

The most recent shooting involved an unarmed cemetery owner, Clifford Work, where Trooper Cole fired his weapon 19 times at the father-of-two in a Pinellas Park graveyard. But, is the trooper truly misunderstood??

His former co-worker says yes.

"He's the most compassionate person I know. He's very polite. He's always out to help somebody," says Gene Lofgren, a 69-year-old former auxiliary member of FHP who served from 2003 to 2011.

How does former Sgt. Lofgren respond to those who call his buddy, Trooper Cole, a "reckless, trigger happy trooper"?

"He is a good guy who is doing his job," said Lofgren.

Former FHP auxiliary Sgt. Gene Lofgren wants to set the record straight about his buddy. It's the first time anyone has spoken out on Trooper Cole's behalf.

10 News asked Lofgren, "Do you feel that [Trooper Cole's] actions have been excessive?"

His answer, "No. I would do the same thing."

In just over a decade, Trooper Daniel Cole shot an unarmed minister on a traffic stop as the pastor reached for his own wallet. Then, the trooper tazed an unarmed teenage girl who was handcuffed, leaving her in a vegetative state.

Then, back in September, Trooper Cole shot at a cemetery owner 19 times on the man's own property, hitting him once in the leg.

But in the graveyard shooting, Trooper Cole's former co-worker says it was the cemetery owner's fault that this happened.

Lofgren said, "You know, when you knock on the door, and he comes out with a gun- when the police officer knocks on the door, 'POLICE, COME UP,' -he comes out with a gun, middle of the night, pointed at you?  All you've got to do is pull the trigger and you're dead."

So what about that tragic tazing of a young woman, leaving her unable to walk, talk or see, with pieces of her skull still missing?  Could that situation have been handled differently?

"What else can he do," asked Lofgren.  "I don't know if he was close enough to grab her or tackle her."

And, the unarmed pastor? Trooper Cole's colleague says the minister should have never reached for his wallet. 

In the end, Daniel Cole's friend says, the trooper is tired of the negative attention.  

"He's obviously not happy, but he's also been cleared. There's the stigma. That's what hurts," said Lofgren.

He added, "He is a good person, he's very polite. He's not out to hurt people or shoot people. Those three instances are only times I've known that he's pulled out a weapon."

Lofgren says that Trooper Cole has changed countless lives.  

"He's the most compassionate person I know. He's very polite. He's always out to help somebody. On the skyway, he saved 10 people's lives."

In fact, the former auxiliary member of FHP says he spent a lot of time with Trooper Cole on the streets.  

"I mean, he's received all kinds of commendations- trooper of the year, trooper of the month- things like this. He's just a good guy. I mean, it's a trying experience to go through; everyone condemns you. And they look at one side and not the other side."

"There's probably several different types of police officers, some sit in their cars. That's not Dan Cole. He's out riding, doing his patrolling. Out there eight hours, 10 hours, so when you're active like that, you're going to be more active than someone who's not," Lofgren told 10 News. "A normal human being is gonna listen to a police officer; they're not gonna try and escape. So, when you get these three people, they were very irrational. The third one, who sleeps in a graveyard in the middle of the night in a shed?"

FHP will not comment on the case, only to say that the agency is still conducting an investigation into Trooper Cole's actions.  FDLE cleared Trooper Cole.

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