OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez gave an update Thursday afternoon about the moments that led to a gas station fire that left a motorcyclist burned on more than 75% of his body.
At a news conference, the sheriff showed helicopter video that he said shows motorcyclist Jean Barreto driving recklessly and speeding through traffic before finally being cornered at an Orange County Wawa.
Barreto, 26, was burned from his neck to his ankles after an Osceola deputy used a Taser while Barreto was filling up his motorcycle.
Lopez shared video Thursday showing Barreto and another group of bikers riding recklessly through Osceola County Streets for more than 30 minutes- at one point pulling a gun on another driver- before deputies confronted him at the gas pump.
The state fire marshal said the ensuing explosion was a direct result of the Taser being used near a pool of gasoline.
Lopez said it is against policy for Tasers to be used around flammable substances.
While Barreto is facing along list of charges for his joyride, it was also announced Thursday that the Osceola County deputy who fired his taser, would also be charged.
Deputy David Crawford faces a charge of misdemeanor culpable negligence because, Lopez says, he knew there was flammable liquid where he was aiming the taser.
Despite Deputy Crawford being charged, Sheriff Lopez said he didn’t see any other approach his deputies could have taken because Baretto was ignoring all commands to stop.
“We’re gonna take action based on what we have, and we risk our lives every day to apprehend suspects,” Sheriff Lopez said. “The way he chose to do it that day was his choice.”
On Wednesday Barreto’s attorney, Mark NeJame, called for the sheriff to hand the investigation into the fire over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement or the U.S. Department of Justice.
After Thursday’s press conference, Nejame released a statement saying, “While we are gratified to know that some criminal charge is being recommended against the Deputy, it will be up to the Office of the State Attorney to determine if the charges against the Deputy are sufficient as to his crime or should be greater since the Sheriff has now admitted culpability and the actions are so apparent and egregious.”
Nejame also argued Osceola Deputies had no authority in Orange County where the takedown actually happened, though Lopez says crossing county lines is permitted under similar circumstances.
The sheriff said while what happened at the Wawa was horrible, his deputies must enforce the law.
“I say it, and I’ll continue to say, here in Osceola County, the sheriff’s office, we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior. We will identify and catch you even if you lee into a different county.
Barretto’s attorney said in a statement that the charges against Crawford are “the beginning of acknowledging the insanity, wrongfulness, and dangerousness of his and his department’s many failed policies.”
The State Attorney’s Office said when they receive information from the sheriff’s office they will review the case, conduct any supplemental investigation needed and file the appropriate charges.
Deputy Crawford has not made a statement in response to his charges. He’s on paid leave while the prosecutor considers the sheriff’s recommendation.
An internal investigation into any policy violations is ongoing.
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