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Prosecutors release Deerfield Beach burn victim's account of attack
There were things Michael Brewer remembered vividly about the day he was set on fire.
He remembered the cool feeling of rubbing alcohol splashing on him. He remembered the burning sensation, the impulse to run and jump into the pool. He remembered wanting to stay in the water, and seeing the first results of the horrific attack he'd just endured.
Detectives recorded their Nov. 23 interview with Brewer, 15, who survived burns over two-thirds of his body and recovered enough to be released from the Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center a few days before Christmas. Prosecutors on Monday released the recording, along with dozens of other documents related to the case.
There was "cold stuff all over my clothes, and all of a sudden, burning," Brewer told detectives. "Somebody poured something on me, and got me on fire. Then I started running and I jumped into the pool."
But there were things he did not remember. He didn't recall being taunted or accused of snitching on Matthew Bent, 15, who's been charged with attempted murder and accused of ordering the Oct. 12 attack. He didn't recall shaking hands with Bent or agreeing to pay him $40 for a video game.
He didn't remember the game at all.
"He wanted me to buy something from him that I didn't want to buy," Brewer recalled. "I don't know what it was. It was stolen, I think it was."
In a separate interview, Brewer's father told investigators that Bent tried to get Brewer to buy a Little Mermaid video game, then demanded $40 for it even though Brewer never accepted the game or brought it home, according to court records.
Another witness gave a similar account, telling detectives that Bent "tried to sell" something to Brewer that was stolen.
On Oct. 11, Bent tried to collect the $40 from Brewer, following him home and trying to steal his father's bicycle, according to accounts provided by Brewer, his father, his sister and several friends. When family members ordered Bent off their property, he reportedly left. He came back 15 minutes later, witnesses said, with Denver Colorado Jarvis, 15, at his side.
Brewer's mother, Valerie, told detectives that Bent stood outside the house and tried to provoke her husband.
"Bring out your punk ass out here! I have something for you," she quoted him as saying. "Come out and fight me now."
Instead, the Brewers called 911 and Bent was arrested.
He was out of jail the next day, and Michael Brewer said he was so afraid of being jumped by Bent that he skipped school. When school let out, he went to the nearby Lime Tree Village apartments to find a friend.
He found Bent and eight others, most of whom he knew: Jarvis and his brother Jeremy, 13; "Junior," later identified as Jesus Mendez, 15; four other friends; and a teenager he did not recognize, later identified as Steven Shelton, 15. Bent, Mendez and Denver Jarvis have been charged with attempted murder. Initial charges against Jeremy Jarvis and Shelton were dropped.
After a brief initial confrontation, Brewer told detectives, he knew he was in trouble when Bent caught up with him on a bicycle and the other boys jumped a wall and surrounded him.
"Nobody's going to hit you," Brewer recalled Bent trying to assure him.
Then Denver Jarvis poured the alcohol on him, followed quickly by the fire and the race to the pool to douse the flames, Brewer said.
Brewer, still in the pool, urged onlookers to leave him in the water.
"I said, 'No. Leave me, leave me.' Because my skin was, like, hanging," Brewer said.
One witness described Bent ordering Denver Jarvis to pour the alcohol on Brewer, but the witness said Bent did not order anyone to light him on fire. The Sun Sentinel is withholding the witness' name because of his age.
"He was like, 'Yeah, pour it on him, just pour it on him.' And they weren't planning to set him on fire," said the witness, described by Brewer as a friend. "They were just gonna pour it on him, like, to make him scared or something."
Statements by the three defendants still facing charges were not released. Their attorneys declined to comment Monday.
Rafael Olmeda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4694.