A Florida deputy has been charged after allegedly tasing a suspect who was pumping gas, touching off a fireball that caused third-degree burns across more than 75 percent of the man’s body, authorities announced Thursday.
Jean Louis Barreto Baerga, 26, has been in the hospital and undergone six surgeries since the Feb. 27 incident, in which his attorney says he was literally “cooked alive.” Cops were attempting to arrest Barreto, a motorcyclist they say was riding recklessly and had pointed a gun at other motorists. Barreto’s lawyer, Mark NeJame, insists his client hadn’t committed a crime, has no criminal history, and continues to undergo excruciating surgeries in order to save his life.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez said a concerned citizen called 911 to report a biker fitting Barreto’s description had waved a pistol at him on the road. Numerous squad cars and a police helicopter tracked Barreto, who eluded cops for at least a half hour, according to Lopez. Barreto then pulled into a WaWa less than a mile from his home, and began to refuel.
Deputies soon descended on the location, and one struggled to handcuff a resistant Barreto, Lopez said. In the fracas, Barreto’s dirtbike got knocked over and gas started spilling out of the tank, he continued. That’s when Osceola County Deputy Christopher Koffinas tried to take Barreto into custody by tasing him, which didn’t “have the desired effect,” according to Lopez. A second deputy, David Crawford, then yelled at Barreto, “You’re about to get tased again, dude,” Lopez said, adding that Crawford called out for someone to cut the flow of fuel to the nearby pumps.
“Immediately after his comment, the fire ignites,” Lopez said, explaining that the taser log showed “a trigger pull that coincides with the timing.”
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