Teenager Set On Fire Over Video Game

A Florida teen who was set on fire screamed in agony as a breathless 911 caller tried to get him help.

The Broward Sheriff's Office released several tapes of the emergency calls Friday.

In the longest of them, a breathless woman tells the dispatcher: "A little boy has caught on fire!"

In the eight-minute-long call, the caller asks 15-year-old Michael Brewer who burned him. He says: "I don't know! I don't know!"

Authorities said Monday's attack at a Deerfield Beach apartment complex began with a dispute over a video game that escalated when someone tried to steal a bicycle that belonged to Brewer's father. Five teens are charged as juveniles with aggravated battery.

The boy accused of flicking the lighter faces a charge of attempted second-degree murder.

Brewer was burned over much of his body. It is not known if he will survive.



Expanded Coverage:

Michael Brewer loves his skateboard, SpongeBob and the tree swing in his front yard. Now the 15-year-old whose family calls him Mikey has burns over two-thirds of his body and is fighting to live after authorities say five other teens — some of whom were at his house to play a month ago — doused him in rubbing alcohol and flicked a lighter.

Authorities said the attack happened after a dispute erupted over a video game that then escalated with the attempted theft of a bicycle belonging to Mikey's father. The boys accused in the attack are in a juvenile detention center, and Mikey is in a Miami hospital's intensive care unit, unable to speak and fighting for his life.

"It's certainly beyond the realm of anything normal," said Sgt. Steve Feeley, one of the Broward County sheriff's detectives investigating the case. "It's scary. It's scary that these kids would do that."

Doctors say Mikey is doing as well as can be expected, but grimly note that the boy faces years of skin grafts, therapy and surgery. Potentially fatal organ failure and infections are common in cases this severe.

Dr. Nicholas Namias of the University of Miami-Jackson Memorial Burn Center said that it is premature to say that Mikey is out of the woods in terms of danger from the burns.

"He isn't even in the woods yet," Namias said on the CBS Early Show.

The boys accused of attacking Mikey have been charged with aggravated battery. The one accused of flicking the lighter also faces an attempted second-degree murder charge. He was remorseful when detectives interviewed him, but two others laughed when they were questioned, Feeley said.

They are charged as juveniles; the state attorney could decide to move some, or all, into adult court. If convicted as adults, they could serve 15 years in prison — and up to 30 years for the attempted second-degree murder charge. All have prior juvenile criminal records, authorities said.

"My son is innocent and that's what I'm sticking with," said Dennis Bent, father of 15-year-old Matthew Bent, who is charged.

No one answered the door at the other four teens' homes; phone calls from The Associated Press were either not answered or not returned.

The horrific crime has gripped South Florida, and Mikey's family has received supportive e-mails and phone calls from around the country.

Everyone is wondering: How could boys this young set one of their own on fire?

"I still can't believe that there are kids who are that wild out there," sighed Kyle McCombs, a 30-year-old neighbor of the Brewer family. McCombs brought a mylar balloon that said "Get Well Soon!" and a card to the Brewers' home on Wednesday.

"Where did they even get the idea?"

Kathleen Heide, a criminology professor and specialist in child crime at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said young teens are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and impulsive actions.

"Kids will get these ideas, and they can't literally stop to deliberate and think, 'God that's a really stupid thing,'" she said. "The second thing you have is group dynamics — kids will do things in groups that they will never do individually."

Mikey lives with his mom, dad and sister in a working-class neighborhood of Broward County, about 40 miles from downtown Miami. He's in the seventh grade at Deerfield Beach Middle School — he was held back twice — and is known around the neighborhood for building skateboard ramps in his driveway.

According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, problems between Mikey and the kids started when Matthew Bent gave Mikey a video game and expected him to pay $40 for it, Broward County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said. Mikey never paid, so Bent tried to steal a $500 custom bike that belonged to Mikey's father, Leljedal said.

It's unclear what game the boys fought over — or if it even exchanged hands.

Mikey called authorities Sunday — also his 15th birthday — when he saw Bent trying to steal his dad's bike. Bent was arrested Sunday night, and released from jail Monday. He wasn't in school. Neither was Mikey, who went to an apartment complex about a half-mile from his home to visit a friend.

Coincidentally, Bent was also at the complex. He had met up with four friends — brothers Denver and Jeremy Jarvis, 15 and 13, Steven Sheldon, 15, and Jesus Mendez, 15 — and while walking, came across a bottle of rubbing alcohol. They contemplated setting a house on fire with it, said Feeley, who added that he doesn't think the boys planned on seeking out Mikey to set him on fire.

"I don't think a tremendous amount of thought was put into it," Feeley said.

In the parking lot of the complex — a group of low-slung, tired-looking buildings clustered around a coin-operated laundry room and two swimming pools — Mikey ran into the five teens.

According to sheriff's reports, Mikey tried to walk away from the group. But Bent taunted him, calling him a "snitch."

Bent ordered Denver Jarvis to pour the alcohol on Mikey and then Mendez flicked a lighter in his direction.

Mendez allegedly told detectives he made a "bad decision" and that he "just wanted to see what would happen."

Awash in flames, Mikey ran toward a pool and jumped in; a paramedic who lives in the complex dove in and helped pull him out of the water. Mikey's mom and dad, who are unemployed, haven't left their son's bedside. His 23-year-old sister, Malissa Durkee, hasn't seen Mikey yet.

"I'm not in the right state of mind," she said.

Family friend Danny Martinez has set up a Web site and a foundation so people can donate to help; it's unclear whether the family even has health insurance to pay for care.

"Mikey's parents right now are still in shock," Martinez said.

Valerie Brewer, Mikey's mom, told NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America" that her son couldn't talk but was communicating with her by motioning with his hands.

"It's a complete nightmare," she said.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Kristie Location: Nebraska on Oct 23, 2009 at 10:22 AM
    A 13 year old, and four 15 year olds. Six lives completely ruined forever. No matter what happens to those who perpetrated this crime they will be criminals forever! If they go to prison, they'll just join up with gangs and get even better at their crimes, let 'em go with probation, yeah, no one was watching them to begin with, who will watch them then. They'll still get worse, because they got away with it! This is possibly the most tragic thing I have read. I will pray for Mikey and his family, may God ease their suffering. I will pray for the perpetrators and their families, and because of them I will pray for us all....
  • by Anonymous on Oct 21, 2009 at 06:08 AM
    Why weren't thses kids in school? Mendez stated that he just wanted to see what would happen. Mendez, are you stuck on stupid? The one parent that stated that his child was innocent-- were you there? These kids knew right from wrong and chose to do wrong. They should all be charged as adults. The parents of the children should be made to pay the hospital bills and still be sued.
  • by Anonymous on Oct 18, 2009 at 09:49 PM
    These boys should be tried as adults. They should not even get the chance to be tried as anything less. As far as parenting, look at how things are today. You can not even spank your children anymore with out wondering if social services is going to come to you home and lock you up for doing what you think is right as a parent. I think that they laws should allow parents to spank and discipline their kids like they did back in the day. If these guys grew up when i did, they would not have a criminal record, because they would have been knocked into next year already. this world is coming to an end i tell you, everything is backwards these days..
  • by GoodOldBoy on Oct 18, 2009 at 12:35 PM
    I became so angry when I read this. Years ago I heard a minister say that if parents were punished for the crimes of their children, juvenile crime would be decreased to almost zero. A Judge Sleepy will probably give these young thugs a slap on the wrist. Even if any get time, the parole board will have them out in no time. The young victim will suffer forever.
  • by Sense on Oct 18, 2009 at 08:10 AM
    Why is'nt this a HATE CRIME.If the roles were reversed that would be the first thing you would hear from the media and the law.
  • by Del13 Location: Fort Lauderdale on Oct 18, 2009 at 07:34 AM
    It amazes me that Jesus Mendez said when he flicked the lighter that he just wanted to see what would happen. Wow! Is that a psychopath for you or what?
  • by lackofdiscipline Location: washington on Oct 18, 2009 at 05:51 AM
    Lack of discipline is the problem with our country. When I was going to school we as students were respectfully scared of our teachers and priciple. If I was in trouble at school God help me when I went home. The lack of discipline is the cause of all these young children getting into trouble. If there was no discipline in the home, there was in the school system. Now kids no the schools cannot touch them. Our country is on a down spiral. If ever kid had to spend the night in jail at a certain age, like being drafted in the military our country would see a big change.(Of course being protected from the population in jail). My point is each generation is becoming spoiled more with no consequences for wrongdoings. There needs to be stricter penalties for these people. There is no value for life anymore. If this poor child lives and I pray he does, what about the scares mentally and physically he will endure for the rest of his life. Where has the love gone and compassion for life.
  • by Data Man on Oct 18, 2009 at 05:43 AM
    No! Those boys should be charged as adults because they knew better. I dont believe that the parents taught these boys this mess. Give em 100yrs in State Prison!
  • by Kathy Location: Washington on Oct 18, 2009 at 05:28 AM
    15 years, 30 years, these animals need the electric chair. There is no rehabilitation for these rat bastards. Their parents should be prosecuted as well. I pray for this family and this boy forever scarred or dead because of these pure scum. Let's all pray for this boy and his family and I pray he receives as much pain relief as possible.
  • by amother Location: greenville nc on Oct 17, 2009 at 05:17 PM
    im sitting here reading this with tears falling down my face...praying for this poor poor boy, whos life is forever changed. those boys that did this should be charged as adults and suffer for what they have done...and their parents, where are they? how in the h*** can you raise such HATEFUL children, who at 13, 14 & 15yrs old already have a record. the boys and parents should all be charged....and the family of Mikey should sue the pants off the other parents,
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