Clearwater, FL – Clearwater police were ambushed while investigating a report of domestic violence early Wednesday morning, and ultimately killed their attacker during the gun battle that ensued.
The incident began at approximately 2 a.m., when Clearwater police began receiving “multiple calls” from the friends of 33-year-old Annie Vann, Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said during a press conference late Wednesday morning.
According to the reporting parties, Vann told them she was being “beaten” by her boyfriend, 35-year-old Wayne Falana, Chief Slaughter said.
At one point, Vann also sent one of her friends a text message, and asked them to send police to her home.
“Help! Call 911. 1444 Gulf to Bay Boulevard. He has a gun,” the message read, according to Chief Slaughter.
Police responded to the residence, and were able to make contact with Vann at the entry of her home.
But the officers became uneasy during the brief conversation that followed, and felt that something seemed “out of place,” the chief said.
Vann told them that she “didn’t need any help,” encouraged them to “holster their weapons” and tried to get them to come inside the home, Chief Slaughter explained.
The officers refused, and instead asked Vann to step outside.
At that point, Falana suddenly appeared behind her, and opened fire on the officers.
“The officers were not able to return fire,” Chief Slaughter said. “They immediately went for cover.”
Several of the rounds that Falana fired at the officers struck his own vehicle, which was parked in the area behind were the officers were standing.
One of the officers “narrowly missed” being hit by multiple bullets, and had bullet fragments embedded in his shoe, the chief noted.
Two additional bullets ripped through the fabric of the officer’s uniform pants, “narrowly missing his leg,” the chief said.
Falana then retreated back inside the residence, and began shooting at the officers from the windows.
He ultimately exited the house through the shattered glass, and ran out into the roadway.
“Officers returned fire multiple times to neutralize the threat,” Chief Slaughter said.
Falana died at the scene, and police later located his firearm near his body.
Police have asked for the public’s help in finding Vann, who fled from the scene after the gunfire broke out. She has not been heard from since, the chief said.
She is described as a slender, black female with green hair, and was last seen searing plaid pajama pants and a cheetah sweater, according to the department.
Investigators want to speak with Vann to help determine whether or not she was a victim of Falana, and what level of knowledge she had about his plan to ambush police when they arrived, Chief Slaughter said.
“She very well may be a victim in this whole scenario. She may be a person suffering from spouse abuse syndrome,” he explained. “Or, she may be somebody who willingly helped to set the police officers up.”
“That’s something that only she can answer,” he added.
Falana is well-known to Clearwater police, and had been arrested on multiple occasions for drug-related offenses.
“He’s well-known for being a drug dealer,” Chief Slaughter confirmed.
The four officers who returned fire during the altercation have been placed on paid administrative leave, as per protocol, pending the outcome of the investigation.
The case is being handled by the Clearwater Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, the Office of Professional Standards, and the Office of the State Attorney, the Miami Herald reported.