Deputy who tased suspect and started fire at Wawa is facing year in prison

An Osceola County Sheriff’s deputy is being charged with culpable negligence for deploying a TASER at a gasoline-soaked suspect who they cornered at a Wawa in Orlando last February.

David Crawford has been charged with one count of culpable negligence with personal injury for the February 2022 incident that left Jean Barreto with second and third-degree burns across 75% of his body.

On Thursday, the State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Circuit issued a statement clarifying the charges that spawned from the pursuit, which ended with an explosion at the gas station.

The incident took place on February 27, 2022, at the Wawa located at 3951 Central Florida Parkway in Orlando.

On that day, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched after receiving a 911 telephone call that alleged a suspect, later identified as Barreto, had brandished a gun and threatened multiple drivers.

During a 30-minute pursuit that went through multiple counties, video footage shows Barreto performing multiple misdemeanors and felonies, including running approximately 13 red lights and driving the opposite way of traffic 5 times. Video shows him performing wheelies along Osceola and Orange county roads while driving against traffic, running multiple red lights, and veering in and out of lanes at intersections.

At times, the video shows the suspect driving his motorcycle onto sidewalks at full speed.

Jean Barreto riding his motorcycle recklessly on February 27 in Osceola and Orange Counties according to law enforcement authorities
Authorities arrested Jean Barreto for allegedly riding his motorcycle recklessly on February 27 in Osceola and Orange Counties

After the chase, Barreto was followed to the gas station and apprehended. During the apprehension, Deputy Crawford is seen on video deploying a TASER that ignites Barreto. In the hours after the incident, Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez held a 45-minute press conference in which he expressed disappointment in the deputy’s actions.

“We’re going to take action based on what we have, and we risk our lives every day,” said Lopez, saying that “the way [Crawford] 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.

At the time of the incident, the State Attorney’s Office claimed that the sheriff’s office was not “transparent” in their release of information.

“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 a statement issued by the State Attorney’s Office.

Barreto retained Mark NeJame and Albert Yonfa of the NeJame Law Office as legal counsel and within weeks, the law firm released photos of their hospitalized client with third-degree burns covering approximately 75% of his body. The attorneys described the incident as “horrific” and decried the sheriff’s office’s transparency.

“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,” read a statement from NeJame Law at the time.

Barreto spent weeks in the hospital and had to be placed into medically-induced comas multiple times to undergo different treatments.

Jean Barreto
Jean Barreto in the hospital after he received third-degree burns while he was being apprehended by Osceola County Sheriff’s Deputies

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.

The State Attorney’s statement alleges that deputies “crossed county lines pursuing the victim, who had been accused of violating traffic laws as he ‘popped wheelies’ in traffic while on his dirt bike.”

The charge that Deputy Crawford faces is a first degree misdemeanor that is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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