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St. Pete police shoot, kill man who had rifle


Published:   |   Updated: September 7, 2013 at 04:22 PM

St. Petersburg police officers shot and killed a man they said threatened them with a rifle from the screened porch in front of his home early this morning.

Officers responded to a call of shots being fired in a neighborhood near 40th Street North at around 1:43 a.m., but left the scene after not finding anything.

They were called back to the same neighborhood at about 3:36 a.m. because of a complaint about loud music. That’s when they heard gunshots coming from 3311 40th St. N., police said.

As seven officers approached the house, they spotted Lealann Russell Melder Cooley, 46, standing on porch, armed with a .44 Magnum revolver, police said.

When the approaching officers told Cooley to put down the weapon, Cooley put down the handgun and reached into the open front door to pick up a lever-action rifle, police said. Cooley pointed the rifle at the officers, who then fired on him, police said.

Cooley was pronounced dead at the scene.

The six officers who fired on Cooley have been placed on administrative leave while investigators conduct their standard inquiry.

Police said investigators found other weapons inside the house, including a shotgun and a bandoleer of shotgun ammunition just inside the front door. In one of the bedrooms, two rifle cases and assorted ammunition were found scattered on the bed and the floor near the bedroom closet.

Neighbors reported that Cooley had been shooting a gun in his backyard throughout the previous day and into the morning, and was also the one playing the loud music, police said.

Cooley’s wife and 16-year-old daughter told investigators that he had been drinking heavily and acting strangely throughout the previous day, and had been taking his guns out and loading them while acting paranoid and making suicidal threats, police said.

Due to Cooley’s behavior, his wife and daughter had left the house on Friday to stay with relatives.

The officers put on leave are:

*Lieutenant Gregory Totz, 61, who has been an officer since 1975

*Officer Christopher Turbee, 37, who has been an officer since 1999

*Officer Michael Carter, 40, who has been an officer since 2003

*Officer Michael Karayianes, 30, who has been an officer since 2009

*Officer David Kimes, 38, who has been an officer since 2006

*Officer John Phifer, 34, who has been an officer since 2003

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