Note: The video featured is from Dec. 26, 2018.
Editor’s note: Clearwater Police Chief Daniel Slaughter clarified Senter was not a sergeant. The article has been updated accordingly.
CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) — A former Clearwater police officer opened a lawsuit against a strip mall and its property manager after being shot in the foot by an alleged drug dealer at the property in 2018, culminating in “a shooting spree” between Clearwater officers and a man inside.
Zachary Senter, a Clearwater PD officer at the time, alleges in his complaint that the owner of the strip mall, Jorge Annexy, should have been aware that a man, Wayne Falana, was living in the commercial property, and should have known that Falana “was a drug dealer.”
The lawsuit states there were “approximately 84 criminal and traffic infractions against Wayne Falana in Pinellas County,” and “nearly 200 calls to law enforcement” asking them to go to the properties owned by 1446 Gulf To Bay LLC, managed by Annexy, according to state business records.
Now the Clearwater officer is suing both 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC and Annexy for $30,000 “exclusive of interest, costs and attorney’s fees,” for the situation that unfolded in 2018. The suit was filed in Pinellas County Court on Tuesday.
The property managed by Annexy for 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC ranged from 1436 to 1446 Gulf to Bay Boulevard, the lawsuit states. According to Senter’s filing in court, he was called to the strip mall on Gulf Boulevard in response to a domestic violence call at 1444 Gulf Boulevard on Dec. 26, 2018.
The court record says Senter arrived at the scene “with several other officers,” and approached the alleged domestic violence victim. Senter’s lawsuit says the alleged victim was “acting suspiciously” and would not leave the main entrance of the building.
When Senter “attempted to physically remove the alleged victim from the entrance,” gunfire came from the building.
“Approximately eight gunshots [were] fired at or near his body with one bullet lodging into the side of his Kevlar boot, causing bruising and redness in his foot and numerous bullet holes in his [Senter’s] pant legs,” the court record says.
According to previous reporting by WFLA, Falana told police he wanted to die.
The incident itself is described by the plaintiff, Senter, as “a shooting spree” between multiple officers from the Clearwater Police Department and Falana.
“’I’m ready to die. They’re gonna die. Everybody’s gonna die.’ He was an angry man and he for whatever reason decided to beat her that night and when she summoned the police officers, he was mad about that,” Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter said in 2019 about the incident. Falana was “fatally wounded.”
Senter’s lawsuit was filed on Sept. 20. A day before, another officer involved in the December 2018 incident also filed a suit against the same business, and with the same attorneys. The other officer, Sgt. Thomas Dawe, has an identical lawsuit against 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC. Both cases are represented by Josh Drechsel of St. Petersburg.
According to Senter, who reached out to WFLA.com Thursday, it was Dawe who initiated the lawsuit. Dawe was injured during the “shootout” in Clearwater, with a bruised foot after a bullet struck his Kevlar boot during the incident.
The lawsuit claims that at all times leading up to this incident, 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC and property manager Annexy “had ample notice as to an impending dangerous condition” at the property and “failed to remedy or prevent future crime from occurring.” Senter said the company had a duty to keep the premises “in a reasonable safe condition” and protect others at the locations it owns, leases, or manages, “due to reasonably foreseeable risks of injury,” according to the lawsuit filed.
According to previous information, Falana was shot 16 times, leading to his death.
By failing to fulfill those requirements, according to Senter, Annexy and 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC failed to “provide adequate security, take appropriate steps to deter crime,” and ultimately “exposed” Senter to a “foreseeable and unreasonable risk of harm.”
Senter claims he “has suffered and will in the future suffer bodily and mental injury, resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, psychological and psychiatric trauma, mental anguish, humiliation, confusion, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, loss of dignity, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, invasion of privacy, expenses of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of ability to earn income, and aggravation of previously existing condition.”
He said those losses are either permanent or continuing, in the lawsuit filed in Pinellas County court.
The aggravated previous medical condition is not identified in the lawsuit, nor any additional physical injuries aside from the bruised foot named earlier in the court documents, which were a result of shots fired by Falana.
The lawsuit said Senter is demanding judgment for damages, costs, prejudgment interest for the damages, and any other relief the Court decides is appropriate. He is alleging the defendants named in the filing were negligent and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and asks for $30,000 from 1446 Gulf to Bay LLC and Annexy. Dawe, who also no longer with Clearwater police, is requesting the same damages, and with the same claims filed. A post by Clearwater Police on Facebook showed a retirement ceremony for Dawe in 2021.
For further clarification on the two lawsuits, WFLA.com has reached out to Drechsel’s law firm about the cases and documents filed in Pinellas County court.