Five teenagers were charged with aggravated battery Tuesday for dousing a 15-year-old with rubbing alcohol and setting him on fire because he stopped someone from stealing his father's bicycle, authorities said. The teenager suffered burns on 80 percent of his body.
The teens had tried to steal the father's bicycle because the teenager they lit ablaze allegedly owed them $40 for a video game.
Michael Brewer was hospitalized with burns on more than three-quarters of his body after the attack at a Deerfield Beach apartment complex Monday. Most of his hair was burned off. After escaping his attackers, he jumped into a nearby pool.
Florida's Broward County sheriff's office said in a news release that 15-year-olds Matthew Bent, Denver Jarvis, Steven Shelton and Jesus Mendez and 13-year-old Jeremy Jarvis were charged with aggravated battery. Mendez was also charged with attempted second-degree murder because authorities say he flicked the lighter. The two Jarvis brothers are pictured above right.
Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said that even after they were arrested, some of the teens showed little remorse.
"A couple of them last night were laughing about it," he said. "One of them arrested today seems genuinely sorry about it."
The victim's brother-in-law, Danny Martinez, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that Brewer is in serious condition but doing OK.
He was burned on his torso and arms, sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal said. Family members said most of his hair, including his eyelashes, had also been burned off.
He refused to attend classes at Deerfield Beach Middle School on Monday because of the bicycle incident Sunday, authorities said.
Instead of going to school, Brewer went to the apartment complex to visit a friend. He told deputies that while he was sitting by the swimming pool, he was splashed with a flammable liquid and set ablaze.
A neighbor heard his screams for help and put out the flames with a fire extinguisher, said Malissa Durkee, Brewer's sister. The teen then ripped off his shirt and jumped into the pool.
Brewer is expected to remain hospitalized for five months, Martinez said.
Bent and the Jarvis brothers were in court Tuesday and were ordered held in a juvenile detention center for 21 days. The Sun Sentinel reported that attorney Stephen Melnick said Jeremy Jarvis was "just there. He was not accused of actually doing it." Attorneys for the other two said they were "minimally involved."
The five were not charged as adults but Leljedal said the sheriff's office typically releases the names of anyone charged with a felony, regardless of age.
With The Associated Press.