DAYTONA BEACH · Dennis Crouch had already slashed himself. And when he refused to drop his knife, Daytona Beach police Officer Betsy Cassidy decided she had no choice.
"Taser! Taser!" Cassidy shouted as she sent a two-pronged wire, packing 50,000 volts, at Crouch's chest. What happened next stunned everyone.
A Taser probe pierced the pocket of his khaki shirt -- and ignited the butane lighter inside. Cassidy's pocket exploded in flames.
"The subject," recounted Sgt. Al Tolley in a subsequent report, "immediately dropped the knife."
Officers grabbed Crouch, threw him to the ground and rolled him around till the flames went out, Tolley said. The Daytona Beach man, 53, was taken to Halifax Medical Center with minor burns and two self-inflicted stab wounds in his stomach and chest.
Speaking by cell phone from his hospital bed Tuesday, Crouch said he had been drinking at the time and didn't remember everything that happened the night before.
"Why did they get into my house?" he asked of police. "I didn't invite them into my house. They come into my bedroom and shot me with the Taser, and it [the lighter] exploded."
The bizarre burning ended an evening that records show began with Cassidy drinking at a friend's house, then apparently becoming depressed over his medical and financial problems. Suddenly, he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed himself in the chest and stomach, police records indicate.
The friend got scared and called police about 9:20 p.m. Crouch fled for home on nearby North Grandview Avenue.
"He stuck the knife in his belly, ma'am, so I thought that was the time to call you," the friend told a 911 dispatcher during a 14-minute call. "And he was bleeding, so I said, `Well, I can't put up with this.'"
When he got home, Crouch began arguing with his wife, Cecilia, 54, about going to Las Vegas, according to police reports.
Police say she ran from her home in fear when her husband again went for a knife. Officers had to kick the door down to get into the apartment, according to reports. Crouch stood near a back bedroom with an 8-inch knife to his stomach.
After repeated requests for Crouch to drop the knife, Cassidy went for her Taser. That's when the lighter ignited.