Video: Fla. man fatally shot after opening fire on LEOs

The man opened fire on officers in an ambush while they were investigating a report that he had assaulted his girlfriend


McKenna Oxenden
Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Hours after Christmas passed, Wayne Falana Jr. told his girlfriend that he was ready to die, he was going to take her with him — and any police officers who got in his way.

“I’m going to go. You’re going to go,” he told her, according to a prosecutor’s report. “I’m ready to die, everybody’s going to die.”

What ensued was one of the worst shooting incidents that Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter said he’s seen in his 26 years serving the city. Falana opened fire on officers in a Dec. 26 ambush, authorities said, while they were investigating a report that he had assaulted his girlfriend.

It turned into a gun battle that ended when four officers shot Falana 16 times, authorities said. He died on Gulf to Bay Boulevard. The officers were cleared by a Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office report released Wednesday that revealed new details about the incident.

“I can’t think of too many shootings we’ve had in Clearwater that have involved the exchange of multiple rounds like this,” Slaughter said. “I don’t think you can get any closer to losing an officer than you did on Dec. 26.” Sgt. Thomas Dawe, 41, had eight bullet holes in his pants, the report said, but somehow escaped injury. Officer Robert Main said he felt a bullet jet right past his head and neck. He paused to pat the area to make sure he hadn’t been hit.

The report ruled Falana’s death to be justifiable homicide, clearing these four officers to return to duty: Main, 32, who has served since 2011; Steven Buis, 28, who joined in 2017; Zachary Senter, 27, who was also hired in 2017; and Michael Spitaleri, 33, who has been on the force since 2006. Dawe, who joined the force in 1999, did not fire his weapon.

The report describes the events that unfolded when officers arrived at 1438 Gulf to Bay Blvd. at about 1:57 a.m.

Police had been told by the girlfriend’s family via Facebook messenger that he had beaten her, that she feared for her life. Officers spent 30 minutes trying to find her apartment complex, the chief said.

“Call the police. I ain’t scared,” an armed Falana told her, according to the report.

The officers found her, then stood outside the back door of the apartment, trying to coax the woman to come outside. Then, a video released by police showed Falana opening fire on officers from inside the building.

Officers took cover while Falana ran to the front of the apartment, the report said, where officers spotted him through a window. They said he was pointing a gun at them. They opened fire.

Falana shot back, then ran through the shattered glass. Then he ran onto Gulf to Bay Boulevard, exchanging more gunfire with officers. Soon, Falana was on the ground, still moving and disobeying officers’ to remain still. The officers continued firing, the report said.

The chief said they don’t know when during the gunfight that Falana was wounded. He used three guns and fired 13 rounds during the incident, the report said. One had jammed, and one was found near his body on the street.

The girlfriend told police that Falana had struck her in the head, knocked her to the ground and repeatedly kicked her. He was living illegally in a recording studio on the property, the chief said. Falana has a criminal history that included charges of possession of cocaine and marijuana and resisting arrest without violence, according to state records.

“He wasn’t supposed to be living there, he wasn’t supposed to be selling marijuana, he wasn’t supposed to be doing a lot of things." Slaughter said. “And he wasn’t supposed to be in possession of a gun. He’s not a good man.”

The chief said his officers were very fortunate to escape the shoot-out unscathed: “It was Christmas time. It’s a blessing they weren’t hurt.”

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©2019 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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