Lawyers for man, 26, 'cooked alive' after cops' Taser set him on fire at gas station demand probe | Daily Mail Online
Category: News & PoliticsVia: tacos • one month ago • 16 comments
By: Alex Hammer (Mail Online)
Lawyers for a Fed-Ex worker who was badly burned in an explosion when a deputy tasered him while he was pumping gas say he is being 'vilified' by cops who suggested he was armed when the 26-year-old had 'never had a gun or brandished a gun.'
The Osceola County Sheriff's Office has yet to produce a charge against 26-year-old Jean Barreto, who was tackled from behind, allegedly without warning, during the botched arrest.
'I've never seen law enforcement behaving this way in Central Florida and doing these types of things for anything from no offense to misdemeanor offenses,' said Mark NeJame, who with Albert Yonfa represent Barreto and his family.
'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 told reporters during a Wednesday presser.
A photo shared by the attorneys with reporters shows Barreto's father praying at his son's bedside, which Yonfa said he does everyday.
Barreto, 26, who had been on his way home a peaceful motorbike memorial ride in Osceola County, suffered third-degree burns to more than 75% of his body as a result of the incident, which transpired at an Orange County Wawa on February 27.
He has been in an Orlando hospital ever since, where his lawyers say he has undergone dozens of surgeries as he barely clings life.
A photo shared by the attorneys with reporters shows Barreto's father praying at his savaged son's bedside, which Yonfa said he does everyday.
Lawyers for Florida Fed-Ex worker Jean Barreto, who was badly burned in an explosion in February when a Florida deputy Tasered him while he was pumping gas are demanding federal and state officials probe into the case, as local Sheriffs continue to refuse to hand over information on the case
During the event, NeJame challenged the Osceola County Sheriff's Office to prove previous assertions that deputies had followed Barretto to the gas station after responding to a call about a group of bikers allegedly brandishing guns.
The lawyer - who shared graphic images showing the hourslong process of changing the bandages covering most of Barretto's body - demanded the office produce body-camera footage from the incident, which they have so far refused to do.
NeJame said police have yet to provide records of what led deputies to follow Barretto several miles into Orange County.
'We got none of them,' NeJame said. 'You don't have them.'
He went on: 'This is a good, young man working at Fed Ex. Why is this happening? What are they hiding, and why are they hiding it?'
He then demanded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Department of Justice take over the case, and open an investigation into the handling of the incident by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.
Cops say Barreto, who was on his way home from a motorbike rally that was broken up by cops due to a recent 'zero tolerance' police implemented by the force against groups of bikers, fled the traffic stop on his bike and was tracked down to the Wawa - claims his attorney said they have yet to prove as of Wednesday, nearly three months after the incident
'We're calling today for Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take this case over or to have the US Justice Department to take this case over. There's too much going on, too many questions that need to be asked.'
'We're not saying anything other than let's get the truth out. And it's not out.'
'This is insanity, and we have to put an end to it.'
NeJame says Barreto is now without most of his skin, and is set to be put in a medically induced coma as he undergoes more intense treatment to stay alive.
'He is wrapped and unwrapped in gauze daily, bleeding profusely still as he doesn't have the requisite amount of skin to contain his body fluids.'
Among the questions aired during the Wednesday presser was why an officer would deploy a taser toward someone standing at something as flammable as a gas pump, knowing the risk of that firing an electrical charge near it might bring.
During a press conference held Wednesday, Barreto's attorney, Mark NeJame, demanded the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Department of Justice take over the case, and open an investigation into the handling of the incident by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office
He said the group of bikers Barreto had gathered for a peaceful memorial ride, and that Barreto has never owned a gun and has no criminal record.
NeJame accused Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez of hiding 'behind the skirt of FDLE' while still remaining silent about what happened to Barreto during the incident, which was recorded in part by a security camera at the Wawa.
'Rather than turning [the fire investigation] over to an independent agency, he's got the fox guarding the henhouse,' NeJame said. 'Why is this being investigated with no information being provided to us when it's his own agency? He can't have it both ways.'
Barreto has been in an Orlando hospital ever since, where his lawyers say he has undergone dozens of surgeries as he barely clings life. He will now be placed in a medically induced coma ahead of new treatment, as doctors grow tissue to replace the skin he's lost
More than ten weeks later, Barreto remains hospitalized, undergoing intense treatment and repeated skin-grafts. He will now be placed in a medically induced coma ahead of new treatment, as doctors grow tissue to replace the skin he's lost.
Police previously said the incident started after they received a call saying a group of bikers were pointing guns at civilians, spurring them to stop Barreto in Kissimmee, 9 miles from the Orange County Wawa where the explosion would eventually occur.
Cops say Barreto, who was on his way home from a motorbike rally that was broken up by cops due to the recent 'zero tolerance' police implemented by the force against groups of bikers, fled the traffic stop on his bike and was tracked down to the Wawa.
Security footage then showed another Osceola County Sheriff's deputy pulling up behind Barreto as he filled his bike up, and tackling him from behind.
Once Barreto is on the ground, the footage showed the deputy in question deploying his stun gun, setting off a chain reaction that causes the pump Barreto had been standing at to explode, severely burning the Orlando resident.
Shocking video shows the fireball explosion from the February 27 incident, which left Barreto without most of his skin. Barreto, who was targeted because he attended a banned motorbike enthusiast event that was broken up by cops, is undergoing intense treatment to stay alive
The footage the shows the unidentified officer deploy his Taser at Barreto, who had already been tackled to the ground. The shot sets off a chain reaction that causes the pump to explode
During the presser, NeJame challenged Osceola County Sheriff's' account of the events that led up to the explosion, which has left Barreto with 'third-degree burns on approximately 75% of his body' and most of his skin 'burned off,' barely clinging to life.
He also noted Sheriff Lopez's 'zero tolerance' policy, showing a video of the sheriff Lopez arresting a group of motorcyclists in the for popping wheelies.
'We're going to come after you. We're going to chase you down. We're going to arrest you and book you in the Osceola County Jail and confiscate your bike,' Lopez says in the video, part of a series dubbed 'Busted By The Sheriff.' 'Zero tolerance here in Osceola County,' the sheriff says in the clip, posted to the department's social media.
The attorney also challenged the office - which has refused to release deputies' worn body-camera footage of the incident - to produce evidence Barreto had fled police before the encounter.
'That's something they have to produce,' the lawyer told reporters. 'Bring it on.'
'Don't let them get away with these kinds of misrepresentations,' NeJame said.
The attorney went on to demand the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over the investigation of the incident, and investigate the officers' handling of the botched arrest - for which officers have yet to justify aside from the traffic stop story, which NeJame demanded officers prove.
'That is something they have to come up with, and they have yet to,' the attorney said.
NeJame added that his office has repeatedly asked for the body-camera footage from the incident, but has been ignored.
The Osceola County Sheriff's Office previously acknowledged that a stun gun was deployed but would not say if it sparked the fire. However, a Fire Marshall's analysis of the crime scene, reiterated by NeJame Wednesday, determined that the gun did cause the explosion.
NeJame has been increasingly critical of Osceola Sheriff Lopez in recent weeks, claiming a lack of transparency by his force, which has yet to provide police reports detailing the incident or a concrete reason for the botched arrest.
Barreto, a 26-year-old Fed Ex worker in Orlando, is still hospitalized ten weeks after the incident barely clinging to life, his attorney says, adding that there is a possibility he will not pull through. He is demanding the Osceola County Sheriff's Office relinquish the investigation to the state, so that officers' supposed mishandling of the case can be illuminated
'Abundant questions remain, including why does the sheriff continue to establish and institute policies and practices that endanger both the public and his deputies, and continues to expose the county and his deputies individually to massive personal financial liability?'
NeJame added that Barreto's life will never be the same as a result of cops' actions during the incident, if he manages to pull through.
Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez previously acknowledged that a stun gun was deployed but would not say if it sparked the fire.
An internal investigation is currently underway over the Osceola County Sheriff's' handling of the incident.
Video shows Barreto pumping gas into his motorbike outside the Orange County Wawa where the explosion would eventually occur, after he had stopped to get gas following the rally in Osceola County.
After about a minute-and-a-half at the pump, Barreto is tackled from behind by the deputy, who reportedly had been following him from the rally.
Video shows at least three other Osceola deputy vehicles then surround Barreto and his dirt bike.
The footage the shows the unidentified officer deploy his Taser at Barreto, who was on the ground at the time. The shot then sets off a chain reaction causing the gas pump Barreto had been at to explode.
Police refused to turn over footage of the incident from the officers' body-cameras, and have yet to identify the deputies involved, pending an internal investigation.
Lawyers for Barreto are demanding the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and US Department of Justice take over the probe, and begin an investigation into the protocols, practices, policies, and procedures of the Sheriff's Office.
In a press release describing the incident, attorneys called the deputy's use of the stun gun as 'reckless, foolish, unnecessary and deadly,' and questioned why 'military tactics' were used when Barreto was not armed.
They went on to explicitly detail the gruesome injuries Barreto suffered as a result of the explosion.
'While being cooked alive, Mr. Barreto sustained third-degree burns on approximately 75% of his body, front and back from his feet to the bottom of his neck.'
The release further revealed that most of Barreto's skin had been burned off as a result of the incident and has spent the past 10 weeks in a hospital, where he is undergoing procedures that require his dead skin to be routinely peeled off of his body.
The release also revealed that a State Fire Marshal analysis of the crime scene confirmed that the taser had in fact caused the fire.
Barreto, meanwhile - who is at Orlando Health Hospital - will be placed in a medically induced coma as doctors grow skin tissue to use for skin grafting, his lawyers said.
They criticized the OCSO for not turning over officers' body-worn camera footage and police reports, and request state or federal intervention into the investigation, which could result in charges being filed against officers.
The Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com's request for comment Wednesday morning.