Burn Victim Michael Brewer Speaks Out Against Bullying

Florida boy was doused in alcohol and set on fire.

November 5, 2009, 3:24 PM

Aug. 23, 2010 — -- It's a 911 call that captures an act of rare barbarity.

"A little boy just caught on fire," says a frantic voice, with screaming audible in the background.

On Oct 12, 2009, just one day after his 15th birthday, Michael Brewer was set on fire and left to die.

"Sweetie, how did this happen?" the 911 caller can be heard to ask.

"Somebody put stuff on me!" the teen replies.

It started when a group of bullies in Deerfield Beach, Fla. -- Michael says former friends -- hassled him for $40 they claimed he owed them for a DVD.

"They said come over here... nobody is going to hit you," Michael said. "Then somebody poured something on me and lit me on fire. Then I started running."

Click HERE for details about a trust that's been set up for Michael's care.

One boy poured rubbing alcohol on Michael's back. Another had a lighter.

"I saw a kid throwing something at the other kid, and the next thing you know, the kid was on fire," said witness Providencia Maldenero.

Michael jumped into a nearby pool in a frantic, instinctive attempt to put out the flames.

But his long and painful fight to stay alive was just beginning.

Within 12 minutes, he was taken by chopper to Jackson Memorial Hospital's trauma center. Sixty-five percent of his body was covered by second- and third-degree burns.

"They didn't really tell me how bad it was, they kept it from me," said Valerie Brewer, Michael's mother.

His is a remarkable story of survival and courage. One that he and his family only now can recount in detail.

"I had holes in my arms," Michael recalled. But he can't even remember what happened those first weeks as he lay in a coma for three weeks medically induced, in part, to keep him from feeling the unspeakable pain.

"We almost lost him several times, his kidneys started to fail, he had a problem with his heart," said Brewer. "We were very lucky and I know that it was his sheer will and determination to get better.

At first, Michael's family held vigils day and night. Valerie Brewer refused to leave his bedside.

Michael spent weeks in intensive care in an induced coma.

"The pain was just incredible, they had him on so many different medications and nothing can completely get rid of the pain," she said. "They had him on propofol ... the same medication that Michael Jackson was on."

For weeks, with Michael's life hanging in the balance, spontaneous acts of kindness started pouring in: car washes, bake sales, celebrity events totalling more than $300,000.

Michael became a national symbol of the evils of bullying and the gruesome results of teen violence.

Speaking Out Against Bullying

Michael has now begun speaking out against bullying.

"I've felt what it feels like to get burned, bullied, picked on..." said the teen. "So I want that to stop for every kid in school who's being picked on. Jumped. Bullied."

He says any child who is being bullied should tell an adult what's going on before things escalate.

"If you try to" handle it "yourself, they are going to do something even worse," the 15-year-old told Juju Chang.

Police charged three teens with second-degree attempted murder in the incident.

Denver Jarvis, Matthew Bent, and Jesus Mendez were charged with attempted second-degree murder in the attack upon Michael Brewer. The three suspects were 15 years old at the time of the incident, but they were charged as adults. All have pleaded not guilty.

Jarvis is accused of splashing Michael with rubbing alcohol, and Mendez is accused of using a lighter to set the boy on fire.

Despite his gains, physically and emotionally Michael is far from fully healed.

He has nightmares, which he doesn't remember when he wakes up.

"I know about them. He screams in the middle of the night. He sleeps through them," Valerie Brewer said. "It helps me a little to know he doesn't remember any of it."

Brewer urged people not to forget about what happened to her son and to other young victims of violence.

Trust for Michael's Medical Care

Two younger boys who were present were not charged because police believed they were bystanders.

The Brewer family said in a statement that it wished to thank "all who donated time, care, well wishes or funds for Mikey's recovery."

To learn more about the trust that has been established for Michael Brewer's medical care, use the contact information below:

Valerie J. Brewer, Guardian for Michael Brewer, Jr.

c/o Brady & Brady, P.A.

350 Camino Gardens Blvd., Suite 300

Boca Raton, FL 33432

Phone: (561) 338-9256

E-mail: bradyandbradylaw@bellsouth.net

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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