By MICHAEL A. SCARCELLA
Copyright 2006 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
All Rights Reserved
BRADENTON- Tulani Cooper lay on a bedroom floor as heavily armored sheriff's deputies barged through the front door.
He said he saw officers rushing in with "big, long guns" in the late July raid, and, according to reports, he fired a shot, striking a sheriff's lieutenant in his hand.
Suddenly two deputy sheriffs unloaded 10 rounds, and an unarmed man in the bedroom took a bullet to his leg.
"I heard, I heard rapid fire, sounded like dah dah dah, like firecrackers. I ain't never heard that 'cept in a movie," Cooper, who was uninjured, told a sheriff's detective.
Despite the number of shots fired, and the fact that the officers were not aiming, internal affairs inspectors cleared the deputies this month of any wrongdoing following a review that included a slow-motion re-enactment.
"This thing was over in a matter of seconds. It started and ended in the blink of an eye," said Sgt. David Haines, snapping his fingers to show the speed of the shooting.
The SWAT shooters, Sgt. Stan Schaeffer and Deputy Randy Barnett, said they feared for their lives as they fired into the small room that -- unknown to them at the time -- had two people, not one.
Schaeffer and Barnett said they believed more than one shot was fired from the bedroom in the home in the 4600 block of 27th Street West. A gun was near Arnell Elrod, 22, and authorities initially believed he was the shooter.
The level of force was justified in the face of an immediate and potentially life-ending danger, investigators said.
Cooper's bullet struck Lt. Todd Shear in the left hand and then grazed his neck. He retreated, unable to return fire.
"Yeah, at that point I was surviving," said Shear, who ran from the house, bleeding.
Schaeffer said he was standing in what he called a "fatal tunnel" -- an open doorway.
Armed with a machine gun, Schaeffer fired four times before the weapon jammed. He backed off and Barnett stepped up.
"You didn't have a whole lot of time to take aim here?" a sheriff's investigator asked Schaeffer.
"Yep. Close-quarter reaction shooting," said Schaeffer, a firearms instructor for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. Elrod, shot in his leg, was hospitalized.
Cooper, 25, a local child hero once praised for finding an abandoned baby, was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. He spent nine years in prison for shooting two women during a drug deal in 1996, and the state is prosecuting Cooper as a prison re-offender.
"Man, I don't want to die," said Cooper, recounting the shooting in an interview with an officer.
"Oh, I don't blame you," said Detective Debra Kirkland.
Sheriff's inspectors review all officer-related shootings to determine whether any policies were violated. The raid stemmed from a drug investigation. Authorities said they found eight guns inside the home.
Detectives also seized $18,000 in cash and about 17 ounces of cocaine. Cooper and Elrod were among five people arrested on cocaine trafficking charges. Cooper remains in jail on about $1.2 million bond.
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