OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – The same lawyers representing the victims involved in the deadly Target Osceola deputy shooting are demanding an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement into an incident where three deputies and a suspect caught fire in an attempted arrest at an Orange County gas station in February.
Attorneys Mark NeJame and Albert Yonfa spoke about the incident during a news conference Tuesday.
Video of the February incident discussed shows a fire near a Wawa gas pump as Osceola deputies David Crawford, Christopher Koffinas and Ben Maclean attempt to arrest Jean Barretto.
“Jean Barretto is a 26-year-old man, loved by his family,” NeJame said. “A FedEx employee — a valued, a beloved FedEx employee — who has never owned a gun in his life. (Barretto) never had a gun that day, never brandished a gun. But yet, is being vilified while he’s laying, pretty much skinless, in a hospital bed fighting for his life.”
NeJame said that Barretto was taking part in a tribute ride for another motorcyclist who had died around that time. The attorney said the ride started in Orlando and traveled a little more than 18 miles into Osceola County.
“No incidents in Orlando, Orange County. No law enforcement, no helicopters, no calls. Why? Because this was a peaceful gathering of a group of supporters who were there for a young man who died,” he said.
In February, deputies said the incident started when people called 911, saying a group of motorcyclists was pointing guns at civilians. After an attempted traffic stop near Donegan Avenue, deputies said Barretto fled but they later found him at the Wawa located at 3951 Central Florida Parkway in Orange County.
“Our investigation confirms that after filling his tank but before the gas cap was put back on, (Barretto) was attacked by being body slammed with a flying tackle from behind by an Osceola County sheriff’s deputy, even though he was now in Orange County’s jurisdiction and had been for at least 5 miles,” NeJame Law offices said in a release.
NeJame said his client was not running from law enforcement and added the fact his client was gassing up less than a mile from his home was proof of that.
“Our client drove home to Orlando. If he was fleeing, ask yourself, why would he spend a minute and a half putting gas into his bike, which was only a mile away from his home? Who flees and eludes and stops for gas along the way?” he said.
The attorney also said Barretto has never been hit with any charges stemming from the arrest attempt.
During the attempted arrest at the gas station, a pump caught fire, which caused the three deputies and Barretto to suffer burns and be hospitalized, according to investigators.
Barretto’s attorneys outlined his ongoing medical treatment in the statement, saying most of his skin was burned off his body, with third-degree burns covering 75% of his body, front and back.
Osceola Sheriff Marcos Lopez previously said it was not known if the Taser played a role in the fire.
NeJame said the fire marshal’s report on the fire revealed a deputy’s Taser ignited the fire.
News 6 obtained the report. The fire marshal’s report states:
“Based upon the fire scene examination, physical evidence, knowledge of fire development, firefighter and witness statements, supporting documents, and conditions, the ignition of the fire was accidental. The most probable cause of the fire was an electric discharge from the Deputies deploying a Department-issued Taser device.”
NeJame said the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office has been conducting its own investigation into the takedown, rather than allowing FDLE to look into the issue.
“In this particular case, we’re receiving nothing but it’s his investigation, not an FDLE one. That’s why we’re calling today for FDLE to take this case over or to have the United States Justice Department take this case over,” NeJame said.
News 6 has learned the Osceola sheriff’s use of force policy explicitly states that a deputy should not use their Taser around flammable liquids. The policy refers to them as a conducted energy weapon or CEW.
The policy states:
“Members shall not use a CEW on subjects who are operating a motor vehicle or unarmed subjects who:
(a). Are known to the sworn member to be or are obviously pregnant.
(b). Are known to be twelve (12) years of age or younger, unless exigent circumstances exist. The member(s) must document those circumstances in their report.
(c). Could possibly be seriously injured by secondary factors as a result of CEW activation (possibly drown in a body of water, fall from an elevated area, around flammable substances).
(d). Are known to the sworn member to have an artificial pacemaker.”Osceola County Sheriff's Office use of force policy
You can read the fire marshal’s report below: