A chase suspect faces multiple charges and an Osceola County Sheriff’s deputy is facing a misdemeanor charge after setting himself and the suspect ablaze with a TASER during an arrest at a local Wawa.
During a nearly 45-minute press conference this afternoon, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez provided an update on the investigation into the apprehension of the suspect, which took place on February 27, 2022 at the Wawa located at 3951 Central Florida Parkway in Orlando.
From the 911 telephone call that alleged the suspect brandished a gun and threatened multiple drivers, to a 30-minute chase that went through multiple counties and ended in the gas station blaze, Sheriff Lopez went through minutes of aerial camera footage showing every step of the incident.
During the pursuit, video footage shows the a suspect performing multiple misdemeanors and felonies, including running approximately 13 red lights and driving the opposite way of traffic 5 times. The suspect performed wheelies up and down Osceola and Orange county roads while driving against traffic, ran multiple red lights, and veered in and out of lanes at intersections. At times, the video shows the suspect driving his motorcycle onto sidewalks at full speed.
After the chase, Lopez showed footage of the apprehension of the suspect at the gas station. Although he defended the decision to apprehend the suspect, 26-year-old Jean Barreto, he suggested that the deputy who used the TASER made an error in judgement.
“We’re going to take action based on what we have, and we risk our lives every day,” said Lopez, saying that “the way he choose to do it that day, was his choice,” referring to the use of the TASER, which set both the deputy and Barreto on fire.
Aerial footage shows officers putting out the blaze on Barreto’s body, and Lopez says that his office will release body camera video of the incident in the coming weeks.
In a statement issued earlier Thursday, State Attorney Monique Worrell indicated that her office had not received any information outside of that which has been made publicly available. Worrell stated that her office was only made aware of Lopez’s scheduled press conference through media outlets on Wednesday, and suggested the sheriff’s office were less than transparent.
“In order to retain and continue building community trust, it is imperative that our law enforcement agencies work collaboratively in providing transparent investigations that are above reproach,” read Worrell’s statement.
During his conference, Lopez dispelled the idea that his office has been keeping any information, including body camera video, from the public, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or Worrell’s office. He suggested that the internal investigation carried more weight because of the intraoffice relationships between the detectives investigating the case and the deputies being investigated.
“These are people who know each other, these are people raising kids together, these are people that went to the police academy together,” said Lopez, emphasizing his detectives’ efforts to “maintain integrity” during their investigation.
Barreto, who is being represented by Mark NeJame and Albert Yonfa of the NeJame Law Office, is currently hospitalized with third-degree burns covering approximately 75% of his body. In a statement issued on Wednesday morning, Barreto’s attorneys described the incident as “horrific” and have decried the sheriff’s offices actions in the weeks since.
“Despite its claim of transparency, Osceola County Sheriff Lopez and his department…has failed to turn over critical and essential evidence which includes but is not limited to body cam footage and deputies’ reports,” says the statement from NeJame Law.
According to his attorneys, Barreto has spent 10 weeks in the hospital and will once again have to be placed into a medically-induced coma over the coming days to undergo a series of treatments. They claim that the sheriff’s office went out of its way and into other jurisdictions recklessly, tying the actions to a recent incident at Target that claimed the life of a teenager.
When questioned about their actions, Lopez was stedfast in defending his office’s approach to law enforcement.
“Our people, when they elected me sheriff, they had a lot of complaints and concerns,” said Lopez. He indicated that other counties “might do it a little different,” but that he had a “zero tolerance” approach for reckless endangerment.