PICTURED: Florida sheriff’s deputy charged after he tasered suspect at gas pump setting him ablaze
A Florida sheriff deputy who tasered a motorcyclist as he pumped gas during a botched arrest setting them both ablaze and leaving the 26-year-old victim near death with horrific third-degree burns has been charged with a misdemeanor.
Osceola County Sheriff Marco López identified Deputy Crawford as the officer who fired the Taser as Deputy Crawford during Thursday’s press conference.
Lopez said Crawford will likely face misdemeanor charges of culpable negligence for igniting the explosion.
Meanwhile, dirt bike rider Jean Barreto continues to fight for his life as he remains hospitalized with third-degree burns covering most of his body after he was ‘cooked alive’ in the February 27 incident.
A source told DailyMail.com what Deputy David Crawford did was ‘absolutely reckless.’
‘At the end of the day, did this young man deserve this? If he survives this his life will be destroyed.’
‘Part of training curriculum that every law enforcement officer is taught is to determine appropriate use of a weapon. It is obvious that this was not an appropriate environment to use the taser.’
Referring to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department’s policy on taser use which the source provided to DailyMail.com it states that ‘serious injuries could incur as a result of secondary factors as a result of CEW activation possibly drown in a body of water, fall from an elevated area, around flammable substances.’
The source shared that ‘the sheriff’s policy and procedures are reckless and dangerous. ‘Our law enforcement officials are there to protect the community and should be held to a higher standard and officer Crawford should be held accountable.’
A second source told DailyMail.com that the office being charged ‘at times can be reckless.’
‘I am not surprised by what happened. This is what happens when poor decision-making takes place,’ they said.
Osceola County Sheriff Marco López identified the officer who fired the Taser as Deputy Crawford. Lopez said Crawford will likely face misdemeanor charges of culpable negligence for igniting the explosion during Thursday’s press conference
A photo shared by the victims attorney, Mark NeJame of the Florida-based law firm NeJame Law shows Barreto’s father praying at his son’s bedside, which his father has done everyday
A GoFundMe campaign was created to help pay for Crawford’s medical expenses. Deputy Crawford is reportedly on paid leave, pending any prospective charges
Cops said they zeroed in on Barreto because he matched the caller’s description and was on a blue bike. ‘Passing cops, popping wheelies, going against traffic – he doesn’t care,’ López said during the presser, narrating the footage, which shows a bird’s-eye view of Barreto, performing stunts and going against traffic as the helicopter gives chase overhead. ‘We deal with this all the time – sick and tired of this stuff,’ the sheriff said as he showed the footage
Mark NeJame, the attorney for Jean Barreto spoke to DailyMail.com issuing a statement after Lopez’s presser.
‘Law enforcement cannot break the law themselves in order to enforce it. They are not the judge, jury, and executioner. They have a limited role in our criminal justice system and when they take the law in their own hands, they are the most dangerous,” NeJame said.
He continued: ‘Our client, Jean Barreto, has been cooked alive, by the overzealous, irresponsible, and illegal actions of the Osceola County Sheriff’s office, whose policies, created and promoted by Sheriff Lopez, have led to this and other atrocities within his department. Their actions insult and defame the mostly good members of law enforcement, as much as their reckless policies maim, injure, and kill our citizens. ‘
The comments flooded Facebook with many expressing their outrage on the sheriff’s handling of the incident.
‘I supported this Sheriff until this incident, and a couple of things that have happened in last couple of months. He acts like he is in the Wild West,’ one person wrote.
‘Notice Lopez never acknowledged how many people that cop could have killed by firing his taser,’ another person said.
No accountability, basically just killed someone in the worst way and stand there defending their unlawful actions. Just horrible.’
Lawyer for Barreto says he ‘sustained third-degree burns on approximately 75% of his body…[and] is wrapped and unwrapped in gauze daily.’ He has been in an Orlando hospital ever since, where his lawyers say he has undergone dozens of surgeries as he barely clings life
Lopez said Crawford did not make a statement on the incident, adding: ‘He invoked his right (to silence).I don’t know what was going on in his mind that day, I can’t speak for him. Our policy clearly states you should not use a taser near combustible material. ‘We are putting our piece of the puzzle together’
‘Our client, Jean Barreto, has been cooked alive, by the overzealous, irresponsible, and illegal actions of the Osceola County Sheriff’s office, whose policies, created and promoted by Sheriff Lopez, have led to this and other atrocities within his department. Their actions insult and defame the mostly good members of law enforcement, as much as their reckless policies maim, injure, and kill our citizens,’ victim’s attorney Mark Nejame said, in part
Barreto, meanwhile, will face a charge of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving, resisting arrest without violence and a felony charge for popping three wheelies on his motorcycle Deputy Crawford is reportedly on paid leave, pending any prospective charges
The family of 26-year-old Fed Ex worker Jean Barreto are demanding that the state or federal government intervene in police’s investigation of the incident
Osceola County released footage on Thursday showing Barreto – who cops targeted after he allegedly skipped a traffic stop set up after a 911 caller reported a rider on a blue motorbike threatened him on the road with a gun – riding recklessly as deputies pursue.
‘Watch this – you’ll see what a menace this guy was on the roadway,’ López told reporters before airing the footage.
Cops said they zeroed in on Barreto because he matched the caller’s description and was on a blue bike.
‘Passing cops, popping wheelies, going against traffic – he doesn’t care,’ López said during the presser, narrating the footage, which shows a bird’s-eye view of Barreto, performing stunts and going against traffic as the helicopter gives chase overhead.
‘We deal with this all the time – sick and tired of this stuff,’ the sheriff said as he showed the footage.
According to López, the video shows Barreto – who had been on his way home from a peaceful motorbike memorial ride in Osceola County – run approximately 13 red lights, perform 6 wheelies, and drive in the opposite lane of traffic 5 times.
At one point in the footage, the rider confirmed to be Barreto can be seen driving through a red light at a busy intersection, narrowly missing multiple cars.
‘Imagine this 400-500 lb bike hitting the windshield of your mother, one of your family, López told onlookers during the screening of the previously unreleased footage.
The video then shows Barreto, who was followed by the cops several miles from Osceola County to Orange County during the pursuit, arrive at a Wawa gas station roughly a mile from his house, where he proceeds to fill his bike up with gas.
Minutes later, the deputy facing charges, Deputy Crawford can be seen arriving at the scene, pulling up to the Wawa before exiting the vehicle and approaching Barreto from behind.
At this point, López said, deputies believed Barreto was armed.
Crawford then tackles Barreto from behind in the footage, where at which point, according to López, he began to resist the officer.
Eventually the officer gets Barreto to the floor as other deputies arrive on the scene.
During the struggle, however, Barreto’s bike, which had been filling with gas, tips over, leaking the liquid onto the asphalt near the gas pump.
‘The moment the bike tipped over, the gas cap was not securely fastened, and gas started pouring out of the vehicle,’ the sheriff said.
At that point in the footage, one of the other deputies who arrived to aid Crawford produces his Taser and deploys it as cops continue to struggle with Barreto.
According to López, Crawford then yelled to his fellow officers, after noticing gas had been spilling on the ground beneath them. ‘Kill the pump! Kill the pump! Gas!’ the deputy said, according to the sheriff.
At that point, the deputy who deployed his Taser – a weapon that Lopez reminded attendees does not constitute lethal force – dropped the stun gun to the ground, apparently electing to restrain Barreto without it.
However, Lopez revealed, Deputy Crawford then inexplicably picked up the other officer’s weapon, threatening to Tase an allegedly still-resisting Barreto.
According to Lopez, Crawford warned Barreto: ‘You’re about to get tasered dude,’ citing unreleased body-camera footage.
Seconds later, the sheriff said, the explosion occurred.
Footage shows the officers rush to put out the flames enveloping the writhing dirt bike rider with a fire extinguisher.
The deputy then revealed that his office would recommend to the state that Crawford, who was also hospitalized with third-degree burns after the incident but has since been released, be charged with culpable negligence – a misdemeanor – for deploying the weapon, citing the fact the officer remarked that there was gas on the ground.
Barreto, meanwhile, will face a charge of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving, resisting arrest without violence and a felony charge for popping three wheelies on his motorcycle.
Deputy Crawford is reportedly on paid leave, pending any prospective charges.
The Press conference was shown a video taken from a helicopter of Barreto on his motorcycle before the horrific incident – with Sheriff Marcos Lopez saying: ‘He runs.’
Asked if officers approached the wrong person, the sheriff responded: ‘He (Barreto) matched the description. We responded immediately. We see a guy on a blue bike. The deputy goes to light him up, as you see from the video, he flees.
‘We have to respond when people say, hey, guy with a gun, brandishing a firearm. What do we do? We ignore it? Something happens and we are held responsible.
‘We are going based on what people are calling 911 at that time. We responded to the immediate area, observe someone matching the description, attempt to conduct a traffic stop.
‘Hey, if it wasn’t him, pull him over, just show up he has a nice life. But what does he do? He starts popping wheelies. He sees us, he runs.
‘And you can see it was really reckless and thank God that day nobody else got hurt other than what happened in this video.’
Of any gun, he said: ‘We never found a firearm. It could have been tossed, we don’t know.’
Lopez revealed all the deputies were wearing body cameras. But the that footage was not released.
Emphasizing the dangers officers face, he added: ‘We do things that no one else is willing to do. Just because someone says they don’t have a gun, they could have a gun.
‘And that happens all the time. So we are going to take action based on what we have and we risk our lives every day.’
Lopez continued: ‘The way he (Crawford) chose to do it that day was his choice.
‘I do believe that if he had pulled his gun the guy would have continued to do what he was doing because you could obviously see he wasn’t going to stop.
‘So the deputy made the decision to go hands on immediately.’
Asked if it was sensible to approach someone while they are pumping gas, Lopez said: ‘You can’t dictate bad guys’ actions…
He said Crawford did not make a statement on the incident, adding: ‘He invoked his right (to silence).I don’t know what was going on in his mind that day, I can’t speak for him. Our policy clearly states you should not use a taser near combustible material.
‘We are putting our piece of the puzzle together.’
The conference came just hours after Florida’s State Attorney revealed the sheriff’s office was recommending charges being filed against the deputy who set a Fed Ex worker on fire, ‘cooking him alive’, when he tasered him while he was pumping gas.
Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell revealed in a statement Thursday that charges were forthcoming for the deputy.
‘This morning, we were advised by the Sheriff’s Office that charges are forthcoming on one deputy and a suspect involved in the incident,’ State Attorney Monique Worrell wrote.
The statement – released hours before the Osceola County Sheriff were scheduled to hold a press conference to discuss the February 27 incident for the first time – did not release the charges, nor did it name the deputy involved.
Jean Barreto, the 26-year-old man set ablaze, is also facing charges, the state says.
Barreto was tackled from behind, allegedly without warning, during the botched arrest.
‘I’ve never seen law enforcement behaving this way in Central Florida and doing these types of things for anything from no offense to misdemeanor offenses,’ said Mark NeJame, who with Albert Yonfa represent Barreto and his family.
‘Never had a gun that day. Never brandished a gun. But yet is being vilified while he’s laying pretty much skinless in a hospital bed fighting for his life,’ NeJame told reporters during a Wednesday presser.
A photo shared by the attorneys with reporters shows Barreto’s father praying at his son’s bedside, which Yonfa said he does everyday.
Barreto suffered third-degree burns to more than 75% of his body as a result of the incident, which transpired at an Orange County Wawa on February 27.
He has been in an Orlando hospital ever since, where his lawyers say he has undergone dozens of surgeries as he barely clings life.
During the event, NeJame challenged the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office to prove previous assertions that deputies had followed Barretto to the gas station after responding to a call about a group of bikers allegedly brandishing guns.
The lawyer – who shared graphic images showing the hourslong process of changing the bandages covering most of Barretto’s body – demanded the office produce body-camera footage from the incident, which they have so far refused to do.
NeJame said police have yet to provide records of what led deputies to follow Barretto several miles into Orange County.
‘We got none of them,’ NeJame said. ‘You don’t have them.’
He went on: ‘This is a good, young man working at Fed Ex. Why is this happening? What are they hiding, and why are they hiding it?’
He then demanded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Department of Justice take over the case, and open an investigation into the handling of the incident by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.
‘We’re calling today for Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take this case over or to have the US Justice Department to take this case over. There’s too much going on, too many questions that need to be asked.’
‘We’re not saying anything other than let’s get the truth out. And it’s not out.’
‘This is insanity, and we have to put an end to it.’
NeJame says Barreto is now without most of his skin, and is set to be put in a medically induced coma as he undergoes more intense treatment to stay alive.
‘He is wrapped and unwrapped in gauze daily, bleeding profusely still as he doesn’t have the requisite amount of skin to contain his body fluids.’
Among the questions aired during the Wednesday presser was why an officer would deploy a taser toward someone standing at something as flammable as a gas pump, knowing the risk of that firing an electrical charge near it might bring
He said the group of bikers Barreto had gathered for a peaceful memorial ride, and that Barreto has never owned a gun and has no criminal record.
NeJame accused Sheriff López of hiding ‘behind the skirt of FDLE’ while still remaining silent about what happened to Barreto during the incident, which was recorded in part by a security camera at the Wawa.
‘Rather than turning [the fire investigation] over to an independent agency, he’s got the fox guarding the henhouse,’ NeJame said. ‘Why is this being investigated with no information being provided to us when it’s his own agency? He can’t have it both ways.’
More than ten weeks later, Barreto remains hospitalized, undergoing intense treatment and repeated skin-grafts. He will now be placed in a medically induced coma ahead of new treatment, as doctors grow tissue to replace the skin he’s lost.
Police previously said the incident started after they received a call saying a group of bikers were pointing guns at civilians, spurring them to stop Barreto in Kissimmee, 9 miles from the Orange County Wawa where the explosion would eventually occur.
Cops say Barreto, who was on his way home from a motorbike rally that was broken up by cops due to the recent ‘zero tolerance’ police implemented by the force against groups of bikers, fled the traffic stop on his bike and was tracked down to the Wawa.
Security footage then showed another Osceola County Sheriff’s deputy pulling up behind Barreto as he filled his bike up, and tackling him from behind.
Once Barreto is on the ground, the footage showed the deputy in question deploying his stun gun, setting off a chain reaction that causes the pump Barreto had been standing at to explode, severely burning the Orlando resident.
During the presser, NeJame challenged Osceola County Sheriff’s’ account of the events that led up to the explosion, which has left Barreto with ‘third-degree burns on approximately 75% of his body’ and most of his skin ‘burned off,’ barely clinging to life.
He also noted Sheriff Lopez’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, showing a video of the sheriff Lopez arresting a group of motorcyclists in the for popping wheelies.
‘We’re going to come after you. We’re going to chase you down. We’re going to arrest you and book you in the Osceola County Jail and confiscate your bike,’ López says in the video, part of a series dubbed ‘Busted By The Sheriff.’ ‘Zero tolerance here in Osceola County,’ the sheriff says in the clip, posted to the department’s social media.
The attorney also challenged the office – which has refused to release deputies’ worn body-camera footage of the incident – to produce evidence Barreto had fled police before the encounter.
‘That’s something they have to produce,’ the lawyer told reporters. ‘Bring it on.’
‘Don’t let them get away with these kinds of misrepresentations,’ NeJame said.
The attorney went on to demand the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over the investigation of the incident, and investigate the officers’ handling of the botched arrest – for which officers have yet to justify aside from the traffic stop story, which NeJame demanded officers prove.
‘That is something they have to come up with, and they have yet to,’ the attorney said.
NeJame added that his office has repeatedly asked for the body-camera footage from the incident, but has been ignored.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office previously acknowledged that a stun gun was deployed but would not say if it sparked the fire. However, a Fire Marshall’s analysis of the crime scene, reiterated by NeJame Wednesday, determined that the gun did cause the explosion.
NeJame has been increasingly critical of Osceola Sheriff Lopez in recent weeks, claiming a lack of transparency by his force, which has yet to provide police reports detailing the incident or a concrete reason for the botched arrest.
Barreto, a 26-year-old Fed Ex worker in Orlando, is still hospitalized ten weeks after the incident barely clinging to life, his attorney says, adding that there is a possibility he will not pull through. He is demanding the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office relinquish the investigation to the state, so that officers’ supposed mishandling of the case can be illuminated
‘Abundant questions remain, including why does the sheriff continue to establish and institute policies and practices that endanger both the public and his deputies, and continues to expose the county and his deputies individually to massive personal financial liability?’
NeJame added that Barreto’s life will never be the same as a result of cops’ actions during the incident, if he manages to pull through.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez previously acknowledged that a stun gun was deployed but would not say if it sparked the fire.
An internal investigation is currently underway over the Osceola County Sheriff’s’ handling of the incident.
Video shows Barreto pumping gas into his motorbike outside the Orange County Wawa where the explosion would eventually occur, after he had stopped to get gas following the rally in Osceola County.
After about a minute-and-a-half at the pump, Barreto is tackled from behind by the deputy, who reportedly had been following him from the rally.
Video shows at least three other Osceola deputy vehicles then surround Barreto and his dirt bike.
The footage the shows the unidentified officer deploy his Taser at Barreto, who was on the ground at the time. The shot then sets off a chain reaction causing the gas pump Barreto had been at to explode.
Police refused to turn over footage of the incident from the officers’ body-cameras, and have yet to identify the deputies involved, pending an internal investigation.
Lawyers for Barreto are demanding the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Department of Justice take over the probe, and begin an investigation into the protocols, practices, policies, and procedures of the Sheriff’s Office.
In a press release describing the incident, attorneys called the deputy’s use of the stun gun as ‘reckless, foolish, unnecessary and deadly,’ and questioned why ‘military tactics’ were used when Barreto was not armed.
They went on to explicitly detail the gruesome injuries Barreto suffered as a result of the explosion.
‘While being cooked alive, Mr. Barreto sustained third-degree burns on approximately 75% of his body, front and back from his feet to the bottom of his neck.’
The release further revealed that most of Barreto’s skin had been burned off as a result of the incident and has spent the past 10 weeks in a hospital, where he is undergoing procedures that require his dead skin to be routinely peeled off of his body.
The release also revealed that a State Fire Marshal analysis of the crime scene confirmed that the taser had in fact caused the fire.
Barreto, meanwhile – who is at Orlando Health Hospital – will be placed in a medically induced coma as doctors grow skin tissue to use for skin grafting, his lawyers said.
They criticized the OCSO for not turning over officers’ body-worn camera footage and police reports, and request state or federal intervention into the investigation, which could result in charges being filed against officers.
The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.