Deputies came to Charles Faybik's apartment in 2005 afraid he was going to shoot himself.
They wound up pushing in his door, knocking the 75-year-old to the ground, and zapping him with three separate Taser guns.
Friday, attorney John Trevena filed a suit against Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats. The five-count suit in Pinellas circuit court claims the deputies violated Faybik's rights by entering his house and using excessive force to restrain him.
The shock lingers, Faybik said.
"It kind of changes you in a lot of ways, you know, mentally and everything like that," he said. "I'm not into the things I used to be into."
On Dec. 28, 2005, Faybik was talking to a friend about being lonely and wondered aloud about what he might do with a gun. (He did not have one.)
The friend called the Sheriff's Office, which sent six deputies to Faybik's Madeira Beach apartment. Authorities called to coax him outside, but couldn't get an answer. The lawsuit says they called the wrong number.
Three times, deputies knocked, but Faybik, who is blind in one eye and partially deaf, didn't respond, the lawsuit said.
The deputies began to force the door, which is when Faybik realized someone was trying to enter. He cracked the door. He later said he thought it was a robbery.
One of his hands was out of sight, so two deputies flung the door open. Another deputy knocked Faybik backward with a shield. Then three deputies shot Tasers into him. The lawsuit says the shots took place after it was clear he was not armed.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said she could not talk about the lawsuit or the facts of the case. A month after the incident, the Sheriff's Office said the deputies acted appropriately.
Two of the deputies faced a review by their shift commander and were exonerated, Pasha said.
The Sheriff's Office guidelines for the Taser say age should be considered, but do not prohibit its use against senior citizens.
The lawsuit argues deputies were not properly trained or supervised and showed "wanton disregard" for Faybik's rights.
"There is constitutional justification for entering a home without a warrant to, as the Supreme Court says, prevent violence and restore order," said Robert Batey, a criminal law professor at Stetson University College of Law. "Whether damages will be forthcoming depends upon the judicial evaluation of how egregious the behavior of the officers was."
Jonathan Abel can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.