Dunedin, Fla. - A witness who did not want to give her name or talk on camera told 10 News on Saturday that law enforcement was called out to the north end of Honey Island around 12:30 p.m. Saturday because 37-year-old James Barnes was acting "out of control."
Sunday afternoon, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a news conference and said Barnes had received some troubling news about the health of a boyfriend. He says Barnes wanted to cleanse himself in the water.
Barnes aunt, Paula Yount, was at the beach with him when Sheriff Gualtieri says Barnes "lost it" and pushed her. Gualtieri says Barnes was acting disorderly and the behavior happened "out of the blue." He also says Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Officer Joseph Tactuk witnessed the incident from his ATV.
Officer Tactuk asked Barnes to leave the water and then called for backup. The sheriff says there was a violent struggle between the two that lasted for five minutes. The sheriff says Barnes punched the officer and gave him a bloody nose during the struggle.
Officer Tactuk got Barnes out of the water and onshore and was able to get one handcuff on him, then the second cuff, but it was tangled and one handcuff ended up behind his head.
Gualtieri says Barnes was still using his elbow and his head to fight the officer.
Deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Marine Unit and patrol units arrived to help the officer. Marine Unit Deputy Kenneth Kubler says he warned Barnes he would discharge his Taser, but says Barnes was still acting violently. So Deputy Kubler discharged a three second burst from his Taser on Barnes.
Sheriff Gualtieri says Deputy Kubler then discharged his Taser a second and third time for three seconds each after Barnes refused to cooperate. He adds once they reapplied the handcuffs, that's when they realized Barnes was no longer breathing.
Barnes was rushed to Bayfront Medical Center for treatment.
The sheriff says Barnes has broken eye sockets as a result of the fight. His injuries are life-threatening. No alcohol was found in Barnes' system, but the sheriff says marijuana was found.
The DEP officer and the Marine Unit deputy were not hurt. Sheriff Gualtieri says there is no indication that members of law enforcement crossed the line in the handling of the incident. He says an investigation is underway.
The sheriff couldn't speak about the DEP officer, but says his deputy is not on any type of leave right now.
10 News would like to speak to anyone who witnessed this incident and friends and family of James Barnes. Please call us at 727 -577-8494.
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