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James Barnes, man shot with Taser 3 times by deputy, dies

6:32 AM, Mar 20, 2012   |    comments
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For David Barnes, a picture taken inside his brother's hospital room says it all.

The photograph shows 38-year-old James Barnes on a hospital bed with a tube in his mouth. His face is badly bruised.

"I'm furious about it," said David.

On Saturday, a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office fired his Taser at James Barnes three times. Barnes was also so badly beaten, he was left struggling for his life at Bayfront Medical Center.

"They crushed both his eye sockets and his nose," said David, "and they fractured his cheek bones."

Investigators say Barnes got into an argument with his aunt on north end of Honeymoon Island Beach. When a state officer tried to arrest Barnes for battery, deputies say he lashed out.

On Sunday, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri described Barnes as a violent man.

"The officer was punched in the face, he was punched by Mr. Barnes, and the officer struck Mr. Barnes back," said Sheriff Gulatieri. "It was a very violent struggle which may have lasted as much as five minutes in the water."

Barnes' relatives say lawmen aren't telling the whole story. The son of a Baptist minister, they say James was cleansing himself in the water, and that he was praying loudly - not shouting at his aunt Paula Yount.

Yount witnessed the whole incident, and reportedly begged the deputy to stop.

Michael Barnes, James' other brother, says he supports law enforcement and respects the stresses they are under. But in this case, he says, it doesn't add up.

"Seeing what I see up there and knowing what I've been told by people that were there, something's not right with this."

"I don't believe it. My brother never had a fight in his life. Not even in high school, middle school. He never had a fight in his life," added David.

The arrest report says Barnes had been handcuffed, but that the cuffs weren't secured, and that Barnes was still able to "struggle violently... using his elbows, head and legs."

Last month, a Florida Highway Patrol trooper was cleared by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for firing his Taser at a handcuffed female prisoner in Pinellas Park who was trying to escape.

Danielle Maudsley struck her head on the ground and was left in a vegetative state.

Barnes' relatives question whether he will even survive.

"He was not a violent man. He's the kindest, nicest person you'd ever meet," said David, "They should really think twice before they jump straight to the taser. And I know that that's the first thing they go for now."

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