LAKE MARY, Fla. - The Osceola County Sheriff's Office has released additional video from body cameras worn by deputies during an attempted arrest of a man at a Wawa gas station following a pursuit in February, that resulted in a sudden explosion of fire and multiple people hurt. The video shows an apparent struggle between deputies and a suspect, 26-year-old Jean Barreto-Baerga, followed by a sudden explosion of fire.
Barreto-Baerga suffered burns to 75% of his body during the incident, according to his attorney, and three deputies were also burned – two had minor injuries and were released, but a third deputy suffered third-degree burns and remains hospitalized.
The sheriff’s office on Thursday recommended a misdemeanor charge – culpable negligence -- against Deputy David Crawford after he fired a gasoline-covered Taser at Barreto-Baerga. According to the State Fire Marshal, it was the Taser that ignited the fire, which left both Crawford and Barreto-Baerga severely burned, and two other deputies with minor injuries.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said Deputy Crawford knew there was gasoline in the area and by firing the Taser, his actions were "reckless" and showed no regard for human life, which rose to the level of a potential crime.
WARNING: The following video above shows various perspectives from Osceola County deputies’ body cameras. It is intense and graphic in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.
Deputies attempted to detain Barreto-Baerga, who was fueling his dirt bike. The sheriff said Deputy Crawford yelled for someone to turn off the pump and acknowledged there was gasoline present. Another deputy attempted to use his Taser on Barreto-Baerga, which had no effect. At some point, Deputy Crawford picked up the Taser, warned Barreto-Baerga he was going to use it, and then the fire quickly ignited.
Barreto-Baerga's attorney, Mark NeJame, is demanding the Florida Department of Law Enforcement open an investigation. He claims deputies failed to get Barreto-Baerga help immediately after the incident. Sheriff Lopez said Barreto-Baerga did get help right away and the body camera video appears to show deputies running towards him with fire extinguishers.
Sheriff Lopez said he never referred the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because this case involved a Taser, rather than a gun. Instead, the sheriff requested an investigation by the State Fire Marshal and sent his recommendation for charges to the State Attorney's Office.
Law enforcement experts say policies are in place for officers, and they are trained not to use Tasers near flammable liquids. "Obviously, training plays a role in that, but even with extensive training which we all have, that training erodes as your emotions start to dominate the situation," said Zach Hudson.
However, retired Florida Highway Patrol Chief Joe Lopez said it's not always easy trying to take down suspects. "Our training, the policy, they’re all put there for a reason," he said.
A GoFundMe account for Deputy Crawford has raised $20,000.