Deputy should be charged after Florida man is burned in fire ignited by stun gun, sheriff says

Charges should be filed against both the deputy who used a stun gun on a man covered in gasoline and the man who was burned when a fire ignited, a Florida sheriff said Thursday.

Osceola County Sheriff Marcos López recommended the man, Jean Barreto, be charged with fleeing, reckless driving and resisting arrest after he acted like a “menace” on the area’s roadways on a motorbike and eluded authorities who were trying to apprehend him during the Feb. 27 incident.

A lawyer for Barreto, Mark NeJame, said the fire burned 75 percent of his client’s body.

Sheriff’s Deputy David Crawford should be charged with culpable negligence, a misdemeanor, because he allegedly knew the area was covered in gas but used a stun gun anyway, López said during a news conference.

Crawford, who could not be reached Thursday for comment, was also burned in the fire that ignited. It wasn’t immediately clear if he has a lawyer to speak on his behalf.

“I believe there was no malice,” López said. “But under the law his actions were reckless and he held such a disregard for human life” that they rise to culpable negligence.

Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell said in a statement Thursday that she will file “the appropriate charges” after the completion of an investigation into the case.

In an updated statement Friday to NBC News, the state’s attorney office said: “We just received the case package. No decisions have been made regarding this incident.”

NeJame blasted the sheriff’s announcement, calling any charges that could be brought “retaliatory, unjustified, and vindictive,” according to NBC affiliate WESH.

In a statement Wednesday, the NeJame law firm said Barreto had been “cooked alive” in the incident. He wasn’t armed and was followed 5 miles out of Osceola County into Orange County, where he stopped at a Wawa station to fill up his motorbike about a mile from his home.

Barreto had been with other enthusiasts before deputies broke up the gathering, his lawyers said.

Lopez showed helicopter video Thursday allegedly depicting Barreto on a motorbike running red lights, doing wheelies and driving on sidewalks before the incident.

Sheriff’s deputies, who had been alerted to reports of a man on a motorbike with a gun, tried to apprehend Barreto when he stopped at the Wawa station, Lopez said.

After a struggle, Barreto’s bike tipped over and fuel poured out of it, Lopez said. Another deputy tried using his stun gun, but Crawford allegedly yelled: “Kill the pump, kill the pump, there’s gas,” according to body camera video recounted by Lopez.

The second deputy tossed the stun gun, but Crawford allegedly picked it up moments later and said, “You’re about to get Tased, dude,” according to Lopez.

“Immediately after this comment, the fire ignites,” Lopez said.

CLARIFICATION (May 20, 2022, 3:15 p.m.): The headline and text for this article have been updated to clarify that the sheriff on Thursday recommended charges against both the deputy who used a stun gun on a man covered in gasoline and the man who was burned when a fire ignited. The state’s attorney office said Friday it hadn’t filed charges against either man yet.

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