Florida deputy charged after biker was ‘cooked alive’ in dramatic taser arrest

A Florida deputy has been charged after allegedly tasering a suspect who was pumping gasoline, causing a fireball that caused third-degree burns to more than 75% of the man’s body, authorities said Thursday. .

Jean Louis Barreto Baerga, 26, has been hospitalized and has had six surgeries since the February 27 incident, in which his lawyer said he was literally “cooked alive”. Cops were trying to arrest Barreto, a motorcyclist they believe was driving recklessly and had pointed a gun at other motorists. Barreto’s attorney, Mark NeJame, insists his client has committed no crime, has no criminal history and continues to undergo excruciating surgeries to save his life.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said a concerned citizen called 911 to report that a biker matching Barreto’s description had waved a motorcycle at him. gun on the road. Numerous squad cars and a police helicopter followed Barreto, who evaded cops for at least half an hour, according to Lopez. Barreto then pulled up to a WaWa less than a mile from his house and began to fuel up.

Deputies quickly descended on the scene, and one of them struggled to handcuff a resistant Barreto, Lopez said. In the scuffle, Barreto’s dirt bike was overturned and gasoline began to come out of the tank, he continued. That’s when Osceola County Deputy Christopher Koffinas tried to take Barreto into custody by tasing him, which “didn’t have the intended effect,” according to Lopez. A second deputy, David Crawford, then yelled at Barreto: “You’re about to be tased up again, man,” Lopez said, adding that Crawford had called someone to cut off the flow of fuel to the pumps. near.

“Immediately after his comment, the fire ignites,” Lopez said, explaining that the taser log showed “trigger pull that coincides with the moment.”

Deputy Benjamin Mclean grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the flames, he said. Another “improvised” deputy, grabbing a bottle of Gatorade to try and put out the fire that was climbing Crawford’s legs, according to Lopez.

Lopez said Crawford and Maclean both suffered non-life-threatening burns. Crawford is now charged with culpable negligence, a misdemeanor, for allegedly causing the explosion.

“Although I personally think there was no malice in this decision to do so, because [Crawford] also received burns and injuries, under the law his actions were reckless and had such disregard for human life that they amount to probable cause of culpable negligence,” Lopez said. Thursday.

Lopez showed video from the police helicopter showing Barreto running red lights, doing wheelies, rolling down the sidewalk and ultimately resisting arrest.

“I said, and I will continue to say, here in Osceola County…we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” Lopez said.

Barreto, who remains hospitalized, will be charged with a combination of felonies and misdemeanors, including fleeing and attempting to evade law enforcement, reckless driving and resisting an officer, according to Lopez.

In a statement provided to The Daily Beast on Thursday, NeJame said his client simply went for a ride with “dozens of other motorcycle enthusiasts”, and stopped at a local WaWa on the way home to do the full.

“Our investigation confirms that after filling his tank but before the gas cap was put back on, he was attacked by being hit from behind with a flying tackle by an Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy,” the statement said, alleging the deputies crossed out of their jurisdiction into Orange County during the lawsuit. “After pumping gas for more than a minute and a half, Mr. Barreto was unknowingly rushed from behind with the flying tackle by an Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputy, who was secretly following him to the station. -service. As Mr. Barreto was knocked from behind, by this surprise pullback by a then-unknown force, his dirt bike also fell, spilling gas on Mr. Barreto and the deputy.

A state fire marshal’s incident report reviewed by The Daily Beast says gasoline had pooled under Barreto and electricity discharged from the taser ignited fuel vapor that “travels[ed] at the puddle of gasoline as it spills from the dirt bike’s fuel tank onto the ground.

The resulting fire nearly engulfed Barreto’s entire body and about half of Crawford’s.

The fire marshal’s report, which said Barreto at the time was not expected to survive, identified the deputies involved as Crawford, Maclean and Koffinas. However, he did not say which deployed the Taser that started the fire.

Agency policy prohibits deputies from using tasers if a suspect “could be seriously injured by secondary factors”, which includes flammable liquids, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

Barreto has spent the past 10 weeks in hospital and is “skinless over most of his body”, according to NeJame, who said Barreto “is wrapped and unwrapped daily in gauze, bleeding profusely as he does not does not have the necessary amount of skin to contain its bodily fluids.

NeJame and co-lawyer Albert Yonfa have called on the US Department of Justice to launch an independent investigation into the case, calling the tasting “reckless, senseless, unnecessary and deadly”.

In a follow-up email after the charges against Crawford were announced, NeJame said in a statement, “While we are pleased to know that criminal charges are recommended against the deputy, it will be up to the district attorney’s office to the state to determine if the charges against the deputy are sufficient as to his crime or should be more substantial since the sheriff has now admitted his guilt and the actions are so apparent and flagrant.

Due to his injuries, Barreto will not be physically arrested at this time, Lopez said Thursday. Crawford has been placed on paid leave while the investigation continues.

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