Clearwater police: Suspect in officer-involved shooting dies; investigation underway

"In fear for their own safety and the safety of others in the area, the two officers then fired their weapons," a department release said.
Published June 9
Updated June 9

A man who was shot Saturday by Clearwater police officers has died, the department said in a release Sunday.

The Clearwater Police Department identified the deceased as Bryan Bernard Wallace, 39, of Clearwater.

At around 6:30 p.m. Saturday, officers responded to reports of a man waving a gun "in a threatening manner" near North Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and La Salle Street, police said.

Officers spent about 30 minutes searching for the reported man, but they weren't able to find him.

About 7:15 p.m., officers were approached by a woman who said she saw a man carrying a gun near the area of the original call, Clearwater special operations Lt. Michael Ogliaruso said in an interview.

Two responding officers, Justin Buis and Michael Diaz, spotted Wallace near a residence on the 1000 block of La Salle Street. Wallace matched the description of the reported man, police said.

Buis and Diaz "gave commands to Wallace" when they spotted him, the release said. As they communicated with him, the officers saw a gun fall from Wallace's waistband.

Buis and Diaz gave Wallace "clear commands" to not reach for the weapon, Ogliaruso said. But Wallace started to reach for the gun.

"In fear for their own safety and the safety of others in the area, the two officers then fired their weapons," the release said.

Wallace was hit by the gunfire. He was taken to Morton Plant Hospital, where he died from his wounds.

The shooting happened right in front of the home of Eugene Lane, 64. Lane said he was sitting on his porch at 1010 La Salle St. when he saw officers approach Wallace. Officers yelled for Wallace to stop, Lane said.

Lane saw something — he couldn't see exactly what — fall out of Wallace's pants. Officers yelled again at Wallace to stop, Lane said. Wallace bent over to pick up the object that had fallen out of his pants. Then the officers fired.

"Everything happened in a split second," Lane said.

Buis and Diaz have been placed on administrative leave — standard operating procedure for the department, Clearwater police said.

The officers have each been with the police department for about one year. A Facebook post from January 29, 2018 commemorated Buis and Diaz' swearing in.

Rufus Woodard, Wallace's cousin, said Wallace was laid back, outgoing and generous. Just days shy of his 40th birthday, Wallace was looking forward to celebrating with his family and friends.

Wallace's family planned to hold a vigil Sunday night near the spot where Wallace was killed.

"We want truth and justice," Woodard said.

According to state records, Wallace was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and resisting an officer with violence.

Investigations into the shooting by the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office and the Clearwater Police Department are underway. The investigations are still in their early stages.

Contact Kirby Wilson at [email protected] or (727) 893-8793. Follow @kirbywtweets. Follow Octavio Jones at @octaviojones.

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