A Florida deputy has been arr*sted and charged with criminal charges after he allegedly fired a Taser at a gas station patron, setting off an explosion that scorched about three-quarters of his body. The victim’s attorney railed, “They’re supposed to be our protectors, not our ignitors.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Osceola County Deputy David Crawford was charged with culpable negligence on Thursday for the incident that was caught on film at a Wawa petrol station in Orange County on February 27, 2022. Officers were following Jean Barretto Baerga after receiving a report of irresponsible motorcyclists.
According to Fox 35, Sheriff Marcos López stated the culprit pulled into the gas station after running a red signal, riding on the sidewalk and grass, and heading toward oncoming traffic. At the gas station, Crawford unexpectedly tackles Baerga and yells for his teammates to turn off the pump, all seen on body camera.
Put out the fire! Put out the fire! He yells, “There’s gas!” after Deputy Christopher Koffinas had stunned the criminal with a stun pistol. Crawford raised his Taser a few seconds later as the man lay in a puddle of gasoline. There will be further tasing: “You’re gonna get tased again, dude!” He yelled as he released the explosive charge and fired the gun.
“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, Fox 35 reported.
Baerga’s attorney, Mark NeJame, claims that 75% of Baerga’s body was burned to second or third degree, and that the only areas of Baerga’s body that were spared were his covered face, gloved hands, and feet. The news source reports that his legal team claims their client has incurred $7 million in medical bills that they intend to recover from the sheriff’s department.
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“They’re going to cost the taxpayers in Osceola County millions,” NeJame said. “There should be consequences, because how else do we stop this type of activity for happening again?” The State Attorney’s Office “professionalism and diligence” in pursuing criminal charges was lauded by the attorney.
“He barely survived. His life will always be in jeopardy because of the massive amount of scar tissue and damage that happened to his body. … He’s doing his best to get through his life with these cards that have been dealt to him,” NeJame said, the Sentinel reported.
“If he was driving recklessly, charge him with reckless driving, but you don’t almost kill somebody and set them on fire,” he said. “You cannot have law enforcement running amok. They’re supposed to be our protectors, not our ignitors.” He also requested that state lawmakers make it feasible to file felony charges rather than only misdemeanor ones in such instances.
The news can be confirmed by the tweet below:
Florida cop charged after Tasing man at gas station, setting him ablaze https://t.co/5RH8lQBMeN pic.twitter.com/7C8LQ88srl
— New York Post (@nypost) May 26, 2023
“I don’t think it speaks to the severity of the negligence and the severity of the injuries, but I think that it addresses the crime under the current statute,” he said, Fox 35 reported. In May of 2018, López submitted a charge of culpable negligence to the state attorney’s office, noting that the deputies had acknowledged the gas pumps and the potential of fire.
Even though Crawford has recovered from his injuries, he is still on administrative leave. According to reports, Koffinas was given a 40-hour unpaid suspension for using his stun gun, but no criminal charges have been filed against him.
“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 statement to the Sentinel.
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