A Florida deputy accused of recklessly deploying a stun gun on a man who was covered in gasoline and became “a human fireball” has been charged in the incident at a gas station last year.
Osceola County Deputy David Crawford was charged this week with one count of culpable negligence with personal injury, a first-degree misdemeanor, according to the State Attorney of the Ninth Judicial District.
Jean Baretto had second- and third-degree burns to at least 75% of his body after the February 2022 incident at an Orlando gas station.
Deputies were pursuing Baretto, who was “accused of violating traffic laws as he ‘popped wheelies’ in traffic while on his dirt bike,” and a struggle ensued, the state attorney’s office said.
Baretto was pumping gas when Crawford tackled him and “become smothered in gasoline,” according to Mark NeJame, Baretto’s attorney.
Crawford then deployed his Taser, setting Baretto on fire and turning him into “a human fireball,” NeJame said.
Baretto will require lifelong care, his attorney said, adding that the man has accrued more the $7 million in medical expenses.
NeJame says the charge “is but a first tiny step.”
“Law enforcement is supposed to protect us, not incinerate us,” NeJame said. “This was a grossly excessive use of force that should of and could have been avoided.”
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office said it is letting the criminal justice system decide if Crawford committed a crime.
“Over a year ago, we investigated this case and sent our findings over to the State Attorney’s Office to review. We feel it’s appropriate to let the criminal justice system determine if Deputy Crawford did a criminal act that could be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” the statement read.
Crawford joined the agency in 2012.
If convicted, Crawford can face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, according to the state attorney’s office.