Argument over doughnuts leads to fatal shooting in Pinellas; deputy wounded

A 24-year-old killed his mother's fiance with a shotgun, the Pinellas Sheriff's Office says.

Published March 15 2017
Updated March 16 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — It was about 9 a.m. Wednesday when Jeffrey Falsey asked his mother to get him doughnuts, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

Susan DiFabbio told him no. Her son got angry. She called police.

What followed, officials said, was two hours of chaos.

DiFabbio's fiance would be killed by a blast to his face from a 12-guage shotgun.

A deputy would be shot in the leg.

Neighbors would be evacuated as at least 30 rounds were fired from Falsey's arsenal of guns.

By the end, deputies found Daniel Kulwicki, 68, dead inside the mobile home at 5157 80th Way N. Authorities took Falsey, 24, into custody. Deputy Michael Ficocelli was taken with a gunshot wound to the leg to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where he is expected to recover.

"(Falsey) went off today over doughnuts," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. "Something as silly and stupid as doughnuts."

Beyond the morning's argument, Falsey was also upset that Kulwicki, a registered sex offender, was living in the home. Florida Department of Corrections records show he was sentenced to prison twice, in 1995 and 2003, for lewd and lascivious assault on a child under 16.

It also wasn't the first time deputies had responded to the house for domestic violence, Gualtieri said, pointing to an incident in January in which Falsey was arrested and his mother was the alleged victim.

As deputies arrived Tuesday morning, DiFabbio walked out and away from the mobile home. Johnnie Nath, a neighbor, said Wednesday afternoon that she saw the squad cars, then DiFabbio walking down the street.

"Were you a bad girl again?" Nath jokingly asked her, not knowing what was happening.

Two deputies knocked on the door. A voice told them to come on in. It didn't sit right with the deputies, Gualtieri said. They spoke through the door instead.

The first shots rang out while they were talking. Several neighbors said they heard five or six pops as they were sitting in their homes, one man watching a TV shopping channel from his recliner, another still in his pajamas sipping black coffee.

The deputies scattered and hid behind cars, Gualtieri said. One vehicle took nine bullets. Others flew toward a house nearby with seven children inside.

Inside, Falsey was watching everything through a video surveillance system. With him were a shotgun, a TEC-9 semiautomatic pistol, a .223 rifle, a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun — and plenty of ammunition, Gualtieri said.

Negotiators were finally able to persuade him to come out about 11:10 a.m. He was being held at the Pinellas County Jail late Wednesday on a charge of aggravated assault.

The place smelled like gunpowder by the time they got inside. They found Kulwicki on the floor.

Gualtieri said Falsey had a history of mental illness, making the incident an "unfortunately common situation," he said. Falsey legally owned the guns, which the sheriff said were given to him by his father.

"(Falsey) had nothing on his mind other than killing people and making carnage," Gualtieri said.

His father, Michael Falsey, disputed that narrative Wednesday. From his St. Petersburg apartment, he told the Tampa Bay Times he only gave his son an Uzi .22 caliber semiautomatic rifle for Christmas, which was not used in the shooting. He said his mother had bought him a 9mm Beretta handgun.

The elder Falsey said he didn't think his son, whom he described as his friend, had mental health issues. Falsey said his son told him this week that his mother and her fiance were abusing him, though he did not elaborate.

"They got him to reach his limit. He never said he would do anything," Michael Falsey, 62, said. "This is not him."

DiFabbio, 63, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Her neighbor, Nath, 72, said she is a nice person. She said DiFabbio did child care sometimes at other people's homes. She didn't know Falsey or Kulwicki well and was surprised to learn the latter was a sex offender.

So was Albert Palumbo, who rented the mobile home to the couple. Both he and Nath said Kulwicki had suffered a stroke in the last year.

"He was harmless," Palumbo, 74, said. "They were very good tenants, very nice people."

Neighbors in the unincorporated St. Petersburg area were still processing Wednesday afternoon that something so gruesome could happen in their quiet community.

Post-traumatic stress disorder kicked in for George Johnson, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War. Johnson, 73, jumped from his recliner onto the ground, then grabbed a baseball bat and his pistol. His German shepherd, Dutchess, went wild barking.

Just next door, Anthony Minafo, 80, was drinking his morning coffee in his pajamas when the first shots rang out. He called police, then pulled out his wife's .38-caliber snub nose pistol and put it on the counter.

"I said, 'Whoever comes in, I'm shooting the bastards,'" he said Wednesday afternoon.

Deputies came in, bent down on their knees and told Minafo and his wife, Norma, to get down. They were escorted out of the home into a squad car and taken to their son's house nearby.

They returned later that day, to a house with no damage.

"Thank God," Minafo said.

It was only then he realized the pistol on the counter wasn't loaded.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writers Colleen Wright, Nathaniel Lash and Samantha Putterman contributed to this report. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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