OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – An Osceola County sheriff’s deputy is expected to face a charge in relation to an attempted arrest at a gas station months ago where a suspect caught fire.
Osceola Sheriff Marcos Lopez formally announced the charges stemming from the Feb. 27, 2022 incident at a news briefing Thursday.
The sheriff said the investigation was handled by his detectives, rather than handing the case over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“This investigation included a full and complete review of the actions of my deputies,” Lopez said. “I chose not to send his case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for two reasons. One, a Taser was used in this incident, not a firearm. Typically, FDLE investigates the use of lethal force. This case involves the use of a Taser, which is considered less-lethal force. So the incident is not the same as an officer-involved shooting. The second reason I chose not to send this case to FDLE is because I have full faith and confidence in the abilities and integrity of my detectives, and all employees at the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. I knew they would determine the facts based on the evidence and they would do their jobs regardless of who was involved in this incident.”
Video of the February incident shows a fire near a Wawa gas pump as Osceola deputies David Crawford, Christopher Koffinas and Ben Maclean attempted to arrest 26-year-old Jean Barretto.
In February, deputies said the incident started when people called 911, saying a group of motorcyclists was pointing guns at civilians.
“The sheriff’s office received several 911 calls from concerned citizens,” Lopez said. “The citizens reported two Hispanic males on blue dirt bikes that pulled guns on them, and the occupants of an additional innocent vehicle.”
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.
The sheriff’s office shared helicopter video that appears to show deputies trying to stop a motorcycle rider in what appears to be an orange helmet. The sheriff identified that rider as Barretto. The video shows the motorcyclist joining multiple other riders as they weave in and around traffic, occasionally blowing through red lights and driving against traffic.
Watch the video evidence provided by the sheriff’s office in the media player below:
According to the sheriff, Barretto eventually made his way back into Orange County.
“We also notified Orange County Office and let them know that we’re pursuing a suspect so they would know we were in there. Again, it was perfectly lawful,” Lopez said.
The Orange County Sherriff’s Office said in a statement released Thursday the agency did not receive a request for help from the Osceola Sheriff’s Office that day in connection with Barretto’s attempted arrest:
“In accordance with Orange County Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures, we keep track of Mutual Aid requests and there is no record of a request for Mutual Aid from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office on February 27, 2022.”
However, Lopez said Thursday that his deputies did not ask for mutual aid, rather they only notified the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that they were in pursuit of the Barretto.
“We have zero tolerance for this type of (reckless driving),” Lopez said. “We will identify you. We will catch you even if you flee into a different county because agency helicopters is following the suspect the whole time. This is what is called fresh pursuit. The fresh pursuit doctrine allows for law enforcement to follow and apprehend a suspect in a different county.”
Florida’s fresh pursuit law can be found by clicking here.
It reads, in part: “Any duly authorized state, county, or municipal arresting officer is authorized to arrest a person outside the officer’s jurisdiction when in fresh pursuit. Such officer shall have the same authority to arrest and hold such person in custody outside his or her jurisdiction.”
During an attempted arrest at the gas station, gasoline caught fire, which caused the three deputies and Beretta to suffer burns and be hospitalized.
According to a fire marshal’s investigation, the gas was ignited when a deputy discharged his Taser.
The sheriff’s office confirmed to News s 6′s Jerry Askin that one of the deputies will face a charge of culpable negligence related to the incident. During the news conference, the sheriff identified Crawford as the deputy facing the misdemeanor charge.
“This isn’t a common crime to charge, so I’m gonna explain it,” Lopez said. “Deputy Crawford was aware there was gas in the direct and immediate area. We know this because he says on body cam, ‘Kill the pump, kill the pump! Gas!’ After that statement, he picked up the discarded Taser that was located in gas. He (Crawford) says ‘You’re about to get tased, dude.’ Immediately after that statement with the Taser in his hand, the fire ignites.”
Read the Osceola County Sherif’s Office case report below:
Crawford is now on paid leave. The sheriff said an internal investigation will now begin to determine how many policy violations Crawford made.
Beretta, meanwhile, will face a charge of fleeing and eluding law enforcement, reckless driving, resisting arrest without violence and a felony charge for popping three wheelies on his motorcycle.
Lopez’s update comes a day after attorneys Mark NeJame and Albert Yonfa, the same lawyers representing the victims involved in the deadly Target Osceola deputy shooting, held a news conference saying Barretto suffered severe burns from the Taser-sparked fireball.
NeJame and Yonfa provided the following statement on Thursday in response to Lopez’s news briefing:
Back in February, the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said it was not sure what led to the gas station blaze, but an investigation conducted by the State Fire Marshal later revealed the ignition of the fire was accidental and most likely caused by “an electric discharge from the Deputies deploying a Department-issued Taser device.”
The sheriff’s office released the following statement a day after the incident occurred:
State Attorney Monique Worrell, whose office handles Orange and Osceola counties in the Ninth Circuit, said Thursday that the sheriff’s office has not requested an FDLE investigation into the incident.
Worrell also said that, even though they requested updates per the office’s Officer-Involved Critical Incident Policy, they were not provided with any details on the case of the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation that wasn’t already publicly available. Worrell was informed of the forthcoming charges Thursday morning.
“In order to retain and continue building community trust, it is imperative that our law enforcement agencies work collaboratively in providing transparent investigations that our above reproach,” Worrell said.
Worrell said her office would review the case, conduct any further investigations that are needed, and file charges.