March 21, 2013

Teen burn-attack victim Michael Brewer released after drug-related arrest

The day after one of his attackers received a reduced sentence, Michael Brewer was charged with possessing marijuana and crack cocaine. Empty prescription bottles were also found in his car.

More than three years after he was set on fire by three classmates, Michael Brewer thought a painful chapter in his life was over when the last of his attackers was sentenced to prison. His family said it meant the Deerfield Beach teen could now focus on his recovery.

But that heeling process was interrupted Thursday when the 18-year-old Brewer was stopped by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper and charged with drug possession.

Among the items found in Brewer’s possession, according to the arrest report: A bag of marijuana, a container with “crack” cocaine, 14 glass pipes, a bong, three empty pill containers, a grinder and cigarette papers.

The trooper also found an empty prescribed bottle of morphine with Brewer’s name on it and oxycodone pills.

Brewer also told the trooper he did not have a valid driver’s license.

After spending time in the Palm Beach County jail, Brewer appeared before Circuit Court Judge James L. Martz Thursday morning. Brewer was released with a warning to “stay out of trouble” and undergo random drug testing.

A law firm representing Brewer’s family declined to comment.

Brewer, who now lives with his family in Palm Beach County, was stopped in West Palm Beach for making an illegal U-turn around 1:30 a.m., according to the arrest report. Also inside the van: three other teens.

The trooper wrote he smelled marijuana and asked Michael Brewer if he had any drugs. Brewer acknowledged he had bought some bongs and glass pipes, according to the arrest report. During an inspection of the car, the other items were found.

Brewer’s arrest came the day after one of his attackers had gotten his sentenced reduced in exchange for testifying against attacker.

On Wednesday, Denver Jarvis, who had received an 8-year prison sentence followed by 22 years of probation for pouring rubbing alcohol on Brewer, had 12 years knocked off his probation.

The Brewer family was in court that day.

The nightmare began Oct. 12, 2009, in the parking lot of an apartment complex near Deerfield Beach Middle School, where all the boys attended.

One of the teens, Michael Bent, was angry with Brewer over a $40 debt and because Brewer’s parents had Bent arrested for attempting to steal a bicycle from the front porch of the family’s home.

On that day, Bent told Jarvis to pour a bottle of rubbing alcohol, which the boys had just found, on Brewer.

A third teen, Jesus Mendez, then flicked a lighter, setting Brewer on fire. He was engulfed in flames from head to toe.

Brewer, then 15, jumped into a pool, saving his life.

A resident of the complex ran to the pool to help. “He reached out his hands and his skin came off,” Leslie Nielsen testified at Bent’s trial.

He had second- and third-degree burns over 65 percent of his body.

Brewer spent months at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Burn Trauma center, undergoing seven operations, including skin grafts and a tracheotomy. He still undergoes therapy to soften the thick scar tissue that limits his mobility and tears easily.

Upon returning home, Brewer was paralyzed with fear; his mother said, and he suffers from post-traumatic nightmares and wakes up screaming that he is on fire.

His rehabilitation, once to treat his physical scars, now focuses on healing emotional wounds.

In early 2012, the Brewers braced themselves for a media-saturated trial. Michael Brewer, then 17, relived each moment of the attack when he testified against Bent.

Bent and Mendez were both sentenced to 11 years in prison.

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