Michael Brewer remembers the day he was set on fire and nearly lost his life. But the memory he shared with jurors Thursday in Broward Criminal Court differed slightly from the testimony given by previous witnesses in the attempted second-degree murder trial of Matthew “Zeke” Bent, the alleged ringleader and last remaining defendant in the case.
Brewer said he was never surrounded, as others testified earlier, when a group of boys poured rubbing alcohol over his body and set him ablaze by the driveway of a Deerfield Beach apartment complex in October 2009.
Brewer, who was 15 at the time, recalls walking away from an after-school encounter with a group of other boys. But he remembers being confronted only by Bent, who was chasing him on a bicycle.
“I started walking fast because I was scared and nervous and stuff, and then I seen Matthew coming around the corner,’’ Brewer said. “He told me nothing was going to happen. He said, ‘Mike, come here. Nothing’s going to happen. Nobody’s going to do anything to you.’ ’’
Once Bent caught up, Brewer said, Bent backed him up to a bush.
“I just stand there, and he just came closer and closer,’’ Brewer said. “I guess he was trying to distract me or something.’’
Brewer said he does not remember saying anything to Bent, just facing him. He also did not see Denver “D.C.” Jarvis, who testified at Bent’s trial Wednesday that he poured a jug of rubbing alcohol over Brewer.
Nor did Brewer see Jesus “Junior” Mendez, who has admitted flicking the lighter that set Brewer ablaze but told jurors on Wednesday that he had no memory of the attack.
The rest of Brewer’s recollection cannot be disputed.
“I just remember a cold liquid going down my back,’’ Brewer said, “and I started walking, and I started feeling burning, and then I started running.’’
He pulled off his white T-shirt, which was engulfed in flames.
“I started running toward the pool,’’ Brewer said, “and then I jumped the fence and dove into the swimming pool.’’
Brewer likely saved his own life, having suffered second- and third-degree burns over 65 percent of his body.
“I remember a lady coming out of her apartment with, I guess, her fiancé, and them pulling me out of the pool,’’ he said. “I remember looking down and seeing skin hanging from my arms.
“I felt like I was going to die. They sat me down on a lawn chair, and they said, ‘Everything’s going to be OK’, and then I started getting really cold, and then I started seeing blur. That’s basically what I can remember.’’
Brewer appeared to have largely recovered from his injuries, taking the witness stand dressed in jeans, a blue shirt and striped tie.
He spent about five months in the hospital after the attack, and received seven skin grafts and three throat surgeries. He said he has severe scarring on his body. He gets burning sensations on his back, and when he stands too long, his legs feel numb.
“When it gets really cold,’’ he said, “my skin gets really tight so where I can barely move, and it hurts really bad.’’