OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – A deputy with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has been charged with culpable negligence after firing his Taser at a man pumping gas, igniting a fireball that burned nearly three-quarters of his body, according to authorities.
Deputy David Crawford was charged with a crime on Thursday due to the actions captured on video at a Wawa gas station in Orange County on Feb. 27, 2022, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Jean Barreto Baerga was followed after fleeing from deputies responding to a report of a group of motorcyclist riding recklessly.
Bodycam video showed Crawford tackling Baerga, and shouting at deputies to turn off the gas pump after another deputy, Christopher Koffinas, used his Taser on the man.
“Kill the pump! Kill the pump! There’s gas!” Crawford is heard shouting after Koffinas used his Taser.
“You’re gonna get Tased again, dude,” Crawford shouted. Seconds later, as the biker was lying in a pool of gas, Crawford deployed his Taser.
Baerga suffered burns on nearly three-quarters of his body but still survived. A fire marshal investigation determined Crawford’s Taser caused the blaze that severely injured the motorcyclist.
Sheriff Marcos López said the suspect had run red lights, ridden on the sidewalk and grass, and headed toward oncoming traffic before pulling into the gas station, according to Fox 35.
“Deputy Crawford recklessly deployed a Taser at the victim who had become soaked in gasoline, and as a result, caused the explosion that injured the victim,” State Attorney Monique Worrell said, according to the news outlet.
Crawford, who also was injured in the encounter, remains on administrative leave, the New York Post reported.
Koffinas reportedly received a 40-hour suspension without pay for deploying his Taser in those conditions, but is not facing criminal charges.
“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 agency said in a brief statement to the Orlando Sentinel.
Jean Barretto Baerga suffered second- and third-degree burns to nearly 75 percent of his body. (Nejame Law)
“Under Florida law, Culpable Negligence may be classified as second degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to 60 days in jail), or a first degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to 1 year in jail),” according to the Hussein and Weber law firm.
“Where the culpable acts of the accused merely ‘expose’ another to a danger without injury, the offense is a second degree misdemeanor. Where the accused’s actions actually inflict personal injury, it is a first degree misdemeanor,” the law firm said.