Officials in Florida have announced charges against two people involved in an arrest attempt at a gas station that went horribly wrong after a Taser ignited a fiery explosion: the deputy and the injured man himself.
Jean Barreto, 27, has been in the hospital since he was “cooked alive,” his lawyer Mark NeJame said in a press release Wednesday. Barreto reportedly suffered third-degree burns on around 75 percent of his body, front and back, from his feet to the bottom of his neck.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez announced the charges against Barreto and Deputy David Crawford at a press conference on Thursday.
Barreto, Lopez said, was part of a group of people driving motorbikes recklessly on roads in Osceola County. Lopez said that Barreto was identified as a suspect. A helicopter followed overhead as Barreto allegedly drove the wrong way down the road and ran red lights.
Deputies tried to arrest him as he refueled at the Wawa station. A struggle ensued, and Barreto’s bike was knocked over, spilling fuel on him. That’s when a deputy allegedly used a Taser to try to subdue Barreto.
The Taser ignited a huge fire, captured on video from the helicopter that appeared to show both Barreto and the deputy engulfed in flames.
“In Osceola County, we have no tolerance for this type of behavior,” Lopez said Thursday, referring to Barreto’s alleged reckless driving. “We will identify you and catch you, even if you flee into another county.”
Crawford, the deputy, will be charged with culpable negligence, Lopez said.
“He was aware there was gas in the immediate area, he says ‘kill the pump, there’s gas,’ he then grabbed a discarded taser and told the suspect, ‘you’re about to get tased again dude,'” Lopez said at the press conference. “His actions were reckless, and the disregard for life rises to the level of culpable negligence.”
NeJame said that Barreto has spent 10 weeks in the hospital and is still undergoing “potentially life saving but excruciating painful treatment.”
“He is without skin on most of his body, his skin having been burned off,” NeJame said in a press release Wednesday, adding that Barreto will be placed in a medically-induced coma in the coming days in order to receive further treatment.
NeJame said that “abundant questions remain” about the sheriff’s office investigation into the incident and demanded that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) take over the probe.
NeJame also requested that the U.S. Department of Justice “intervene and commence an investigation into the protocols, practices, policies, and procedures of the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.”
At Thursday’s press conference, Lopez said that he didn’t turn the investigation over to the FDLE because a firearm wasn’t used, and the Taser was considered “less lethal” force. He also said he has “full faith” in his department’s ability to conduct a fair investigation.
Neither NeJame Law nor the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately responded to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
[Photo of Jean Barreto provided by NeJame Law.]
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