FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – “I was barely close to him and it lit,” described a teenager at the center of one of South Florida’s most horrific crimes, the burning of Michael Brewer.
Those were the words of Jesus Mendez as he spoke to BSO investigators in October 2009 when Michael Brewer, now 17, was doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire.
Responding to a public records request, the Broward State Attorney’s Office released Mendez’ videotaped police interrogation.
During the interrogation, Mendez laid out to investigators exactly how the crime unfolded.
“D.C. poured the stuff on him and we lit him, that’s basically it,” said a remorseful Mendez.
“D.C.” is the nickname for suspect Denver Jarvis who poured rubbing alcohol on Brewer before Mendez set him on fire.
“Okay, who had the lighter,” said the detective in the video.
“I did, I was barely close to him and it just lit and the lighter blew up in my hand kind of,” said Mendez.
The detective replied, “And that’s why you are missing hair on your right arm isn’t it?”
“I was, like, the last one to run. Everybody ran before me. I was trying to think, should I help or should I just run. And I didn’t know, so…”
When the detective asked Mendez what Brewer did when he realized he was on fire, Mendez replied, “First thing he did was he took off his t-shirt. We all ran and D.C. said he jumped into a pool.”
The pool saved Brewer’s life but he suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body.
Mendez also said Matthew Bent, whose nickname is Zeke, was responsible for coming up with the idea to confront Brewer after finding a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the way home from Deerfield Beach Middle School where all the teens attended including Brewer.
“That’s when Zeke was like, ‘Come on, let’s go find Michael and we’ll pour it on him,’” Mendez said. He described how the boys confronted Brewer and how Jarvis, following Bent’s orders, poured the alcohol on Brewer.
Mendez confessed to pulling out a lighter and flicking it enough for a spark to ignite the rubbing alcohol.
“Why would you even think about igniting a lighter at a time like that?” asked the detective. “I don’t know,” Mendez responded. “I wasn’t thinking … I thought it wasn’t going to light at all.”
During the interrogation, Mendez said he was sorry about what happened and that he felt bad for Brewer.
Prosecutors say the trio set Brewer on fire after an argument over a $40 debt, a video game and a stolen bike.
Mendez, Bent and Jarvis were charged as adults with second-degree attempted murder.
Mendez, now 18, pleaded no contest last month and was sentenced to 11 years in state prison, one year of community control and 18 years of probation.
Jarvis, now 17, also entered a no-contest plea last month and was sentenced to eight years in prison, one year of community control and 21 years of probation.
Bent’s trial is scheduled to begin next week. Both Mendez and Jarvis are expected to testify against him.
Brewer has since fully recovered. He and his family now live near West Palm Beach.