Orange County, FL – An Osceola County sheriff’s deputy is facing criminal charges after the Taser he used to subdue a combative suspect at a gas station ignited gasoline and set the suspect ablaze (video below).
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Crawford was also badly burned during the incident, WKMG reported.
Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez released bodycam and aerial footage of the Feb. 27 incident during a press conference late last week.
The series of events leading up to the fiery explosion began after police began following a biker who was allegedly part of a group that had pointed a gun at at least two motorists in Osceola County, WKMG reported.
The caller provided police with a description of the alleged gunman and said he was riding a blue motorcycle, according to the Daily Mail.
The biker was later identified as 26-year-old Jean Barreto.
Sheriff Lopez said deputies honed in on Barreto because he matched the description given by the alleged victim.
But when deputies tried to stop him, Barreto led them on a reckless pursuit into Orange County, video footage showed.
“Watch this – you’ll see what a menace this guy was on the roadway,” Sheriff Lopez said during the press conference, according to the Daily Mail. “Passing cops, popping wheelies, going against traffic – he doesn’t care.”
Sheriff Lopez said the footage showed the suspect barreling through approximately 13 red lights.
He popped six wheelies during the chase and drove into oncoming traffic on five occasions, the sheriff noted.
“Imagine this 400-500-pound bike hitting the windshield of your mother, one of your family,” Lopez said, according to the Daily Mail. “We deal with this all the time – sick and tired of this stuff.”
Barreto eventually pulled off at a Wawa gas station and began fueling his bike.
Deputy Crawford pulled into the parking lot minutes later and began approaching the suspect from behind, the Daily Mail reported.
Sheriff Lopez noted that at that point, deputies believed the biker was armed.
Bodycam footage showed Deputy Crawford tackling the suspect to the ground.
Barreto fought back, triggering a scuffle that toppled his bike and sent gasoline spilling onto the pavement.
“The moment the bike tipped over, the gas cap was not securely fastened, and gas started pouring out of the vehicle,” Sheriff Lopez said, according to the Daily Mail.
Additional deputies arrived at the scene, including one who deployed his Taser in an effort to subdue the combative suspect.
That’s when Deputy Crawford realized the gasoline was pouring onto the ground beneath them.
“Kill the pump! Kill the pump! Gas!” he yelled.
The deputy who had initially deployed the Taser dropped it to the ground, at which point Deputy Crawford picked it back up, warning Barreto that he was about to deploy it, the Daily Mail reported.
The sound of a Taser being deployed could be heard just before a fireball erupted, bodycam footage showed.
The flames ignited Deputy Crawford’s uniform pants and he began screaming in pain as his legs burned, WKMG reported.
Bodycam footage showed another deputy grabbing a fire extinguisher from the trunk of a patrol car before he ran to Barreto, who was running around nearly engulfed with flames.
“Get down on the ground! Stop drop and roll!” the deputy yelled as he sprayed the suspect with the contents of the fire extinguisher.
The deputy’s arms were also burned during the incident, WKMG reported.
Bodycam footage showed portions of the suspect’s charred skin sloughing off as deputies placed him in handcuffs.
He was transported to the hospital and has been charged with reckless driving, fleeing and eluding law enforcement, resisting arrest without violence, and a felony offense for recklessly popping wheelies, WKMG reported.
Sheriff Lopez said Barreto suffered third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body, according to the Independent.
He has remained hospitalized since the incident occurred.
Deputy Crawford suffered second- and third-degree burns to his legs, the sheriff said.
A fundraising page established to help him during his recovery raised over $21,000 before it was shut down.
Deputy Crawford has been placed on paid leave and is expected to be charged with misdemeanor culpable negligence for deploying the Taser while knowing there was gasoline on the ground, according to the Daily Mail.
“I believe there was no malice,” Sheriff Lopez said during the press conference, according to the Independent. “[But] under the law his actions were reckless and held such a disregard for human life that it rises to the level of probable cause for culpable negligence.”
An internal investigation is also underway to determine whether or not Deputy Crawford violated department policy, WKMG reported.
Barreto’s attorneys, Albert Yonfa and Mark NaJame, released a statement on Monday denouncing Sheriff Lopez’s “attempts to manipulate” the public, the media, and Barreto by allegedly “intentionally withholding critical evidence concerning Mr. Barreto’s being torched alive by Sheriff Lopez’s deputies,” WKMG reported.
“The horrific body cam footage depicted the barbaric actions of Sheriff Lopez’s Osceola County Deputies, further incriminating the Sheriff’s Department for its heinous and outrageous actions, brought about by Sheriff Lopez’s failed and dangerous policies,” the attorney’s declared.
They said photos and videos of the incident and its aftermath “depict not only a gruesome scene, but a callous disregard for human life and for the safety of the general public.”
“The people of Osceola County deserve better and those who are good deputies that work for Osceola County deserve better,” the attorneys wrote. “Sheriff Lopez’s victims deserve better.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content and Obscene Language:
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