Today I was on Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell discussing the Michael Brewer case. According to police reports 15-year-old Brewer owed Matthew Bent $40 for a video game, so Bent tried to steal Brewer’s dad’s bike as compensation. Brewer’s family had Bent arrested. The next day, Michael was approached by five 15-and-13 year-old boys, including Bent.
- Denver Colorado Jarvis, age 15;
- Jeremy Jarvis (Denver’s brother), age 13;
- Steven Shelton, age 15
- Jesus Mendez, age 15
- Mathew Bent, age 15
Bent allegedly called Brewer a “rat,” surrounded him with the other boys, ordered rubbing alcohol to be poured on him, which the 13-year-old did, and then set him on fire resulting in severe burns over more than 65 percent of his body. According to Dr. Nicholas Namias, the head of the burn unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital because of the extensive burns Brewer is at a risk for infection and is expected to experience organ failures. They believe it will be hard to conduct skin grafts to repair damaged areas, since grafting best succeeds when the patient’s own skin is used and Brewer does not have enough available healthy skin left. Deputies report that the only boy to show remorse after the incident was Jesus Mendez, who was the one who actually set Brewer on fire. The rest- including Jarvis- were reportedly heard laughing about the assault after their arrests.
On the show Jeremy Jarvis’ attorney Stephen Melnick claimed that the attack was not planned. How many 15 year old boys do you know who carry around rubbing alcohol and matches? I don’t know any.
Some argue that these boys didn’t know what they were doing, that they were too young to understand. As I said on the show, these were not 5-year-old boys who had no understanding of what they were doing. These teenagers, a few years from being adults, clearly understood that when you light someone on fire, they burn, it hurts them and it can kill them. We have to hold them responsible.
Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Eiglarsh pointed out that the frontal lobe, the portion of the brain that governs reasoning, is not fully developed yet in children so they make “stupid, even horrific, tragic decisions …like this.” I completely disagree; they make immature mistakes like riding a bike without a helmet, jumping off a tall tree, drinking too much beer at a party, or practicing unsafe sex. They don’t douse their friends with alcohol and light them on fire. To conduct an act like that takes such a complete lack of a conscience that is falls into a completely different category that is deeply pathological.
Unfortunately, I think we are going to see more heartless crimes like this committed by children. There seems to be a huge disconnect. Most kids today spend more time text messaging, watching television, playing video games, listening to music on an MP3 player, using Facebook or playing on the internet than having meaningful face to face connections with people, including their parents. All those technologies and media formats are terrific and they even have a place in a teenager’s life but not at the expense of relationships and connection.
Click here for transcripts of the show.