PINE VALLEY, Calif.
The explosion and fire that followed the pursuit of a wrong-way driver near Buckman Springs may have been caused by a spark from a Border Patrol officer's Taser.
Multiple sources tell 10News the car driven by 24-year-old Alex Martin of Texas ignited moments after the officer deployed his Taser.
Martin was burned beyond recognition in the inferno that followed. The officer was hospitalized with burns on his face.
10News contacted a Taser expert to find out whether the non-lethal weapon carried by police and security officers could potentially cause a fire.
"The possibility is there, but it has to be what we call 'the perfect storm'? the perfect fuel-to-air-to-spark ratio," said Keiko Arroyo, who is the chief instructor at Absolute Tactical Training in University Heights. "It would have to be the right amount of gas and fume mixture in the air to set it off? It's possible, but probably not probable."
Arroyo showed 10News reporter Allison Ash a Taser training video that warns users to beware of flammable items. The video shows gasoline being poured onto a test dummy which is then Tasered. The dummy?s chest is instantly engulfed in flames.
"The scenario could be very likely if the person was actually dousing himself and getting Tased at the same," said Arroyo.
10News contacted the San Diego Office of Customs and Border Protection about the possibility a Taser sparked the fire. Acting Division Chief Sammie Anderson issued the following statement to 10News on Wednesday, which for the first time admits a Taser was deployed:
On March 15, 2012, at approximately 12 a.m., a Border Patrol agent attempted to stop a vehicle that was driving the wrong way on Interstate 8. The vehicle failed to yield and a short pursuit ensued. Agents at the Old Highway 80 checkpoint deployed a Controlled Tire Deflation Device, and the vehicle came to a stop shortly thereafter. A Taser was deployed when the driver failed to comply with the agent?s commands to exit the vehicle. An explosion occurred.The San Diego Sheriff?s Department responded to the scene and is continuing the investigation of the incident to include the cause of the explosion.
The San Diego Sheriff?s Homicide Unit is investigating the death of Martin, but would not comment on whether the Taser sparked the fire.
10News had learned Martin's family has retained a lawyer, but at this time, no legal action is being pursued.
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