A 26-year-old Florida man who was set ablaze when a police officer Tased him earlier this year may still face criminal charges, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez announced this week.
The officer who used the Taser, Deputy David Crawford, has been placed on leave and will face a misdemeanor charge for negligence, Lopez said Thursday.
Jean Barreto had popped a wheelie and fled an attempted traffic stop on his dirt bike. He swerved around cars and onto the sidewalk before eventually stopping to fill up at a Wawa station on Feb. 27.
There, officers confronted him. Barreto had yet to put the gas cap back on when officers tried putting him in handcuffs, knocking over his dirt bike and spilling gas all over the pavement, Lopez said in a press conference. One officer tried using his Taser on Barreto to subdue him.
The sheriff, citing body camera footage, said that Crawford noticed the gas and yelled out, “Kill the pump! Kill the pump! There’s gas!”
Crawford then picked up the other officer’s Taser, which was sitting in the gas, and said, “You’re about to get Tased, dude,” according to Lopez.
The resulting fireball “engulfed” Barreto and Crawford, and injured two other deputies at the scene, Lopez said. Security camera footage shows a bright light and sudden flames at the moment the Taser was apparently fired.
Barreto’s attorneys with the NeJame Law group said in a Facebook post their client has spent 10 weeks in the hospital so far, and would be placed soon in a medically induced coma.
“He is without skin on most of his body, his skin having been burned off,” the post read. “He undergoes procedures that require his dead skin to be routinely peeled off of his body. 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.”
The law office alleged that deputies only called for emergency help for their fellow police officers, not for Barreto, and called on the Osceola County Sheriff’s office to release body camera footage and deputies’ reports from the incident, accusing the police department of failing to live up to its promise of transparency.
The sheriff said that the department had needed weeks to complete its internal investigation.
Barreto had been “cooked alive,” NeJame Law said, sustaining burns on around 75% of his body, “front and back from his feet to the bottom of his neck.”
Still, Lopez said at the press conference that Barreto could face charges for fleeing law enforcement, reckless driving and resisting officers.
Police had suspected Barreto of being part of a group of bikers in the area that were failing to obey traffic laws ― residents had already made several 911 calls to complain about the group, with some saying they had seen a gun.
Officers were close to pulling Barreto over when he sped away, joining up with the biker group and weaving between cars before peeling off to fill up on gas. Using helicopter footage, Barreto was identified as a rider seen running multiple red lights.
Barreto’s attorneys said their client had no prior criminal record and worked at FedEx until suffering his debilitating injury.