DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (CBS/AP) Six weeks after a group of Florida teens doused 15-year-old Michael Brewer in rubbing alcohol and lit him on fire, burning over 65 percent of his body, one of the teens initially accused is speaking out and he claims he was "best friends" with the victim.
"I'm Jeremy Jarvis; I want to read something I wrote last night," the 13-year-old said Tuesday during a press conference.
"I want to express my deepest sympathy for Mikey and his family," he said. "I will pray for Mikey to grow stronger every day and have a speedy recovery."
Sitting in his lawyer's Fort Lauderdale office before going in front of the cameras, Jarvis described his relationship with Brewer, 15, as a friendship that deepened considerably over the past year, as both were students at Deerfield Beach Middle School. "He was one of my best friends," Jarvis said.
And there was no falling out between them, he said. The friendship continued right up until the moment Jarvis and four others encountered Brewer at an apartment complex where Brewer was going to visit a friend.
The teen wasn't permitted by his lawyer to explain how the notorious Oct. 12 attack took place, but he insisted it wasn't pre-planned.VIDEO COURTESY OF CBS AFFILIATE WFOR-TV
Jarvis was the youngest of the five teenagers originally accused of taking part in the attack on Brewer. According to reports released so far, Jarvis was accused only of being part of the group that surrounded Brewer. He was not described as an active participant, and no charges were filed against him or fellow friend Steven Shelton, 16.
But prosecutors still have time to revisit that decision, and with Brewer finally giving his account of the incident to investigators on Monday, Jarvis' lawyer wasn't going to take a chance that his client might say something to inadvertently incriminate himself.
Three other teenagers are being held without bail on attempted murder charges. Matthew Bent, 15, is accused of directing the attack. Jarvis' brother, Denver Colorado (D.C.) Jarvis, is accused of pouring rubbing alcohol on Brewer. And Jesus Mendez, 16, is accused of lighting the fire, injuring himself in the process.
All three have been charged as adults and face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted.
Brewer suffered second- and third-degree burns over two-thirds of his body. He is in guarded condition at the Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center in Miami.
Making a statement about his former friend was something Jarvis has wanted to do ever since the burning of Brewer, Melnick said. Jarvis also had kind words for his brother.
"I want to tell my brother, D.C., that I love and miss him," Jarvis said. "I just hope and pray we all get through this."
Except for joint appearances in court, the brothers have been kept apart since Oct. 12.
In addition to his lawyer, Stephen Melnick, Jeremy Jarvis was accompanied Tuesday by his older sister Elyse, 17, and his mother, Sherry.
In Melnick's office, Jeremy Jarvis said he is not the monster many presume he is because of the attack. He described himself as a normal teenager who enjoys funny movies and sports and still dreams of serving his country in the Air Force.
He also said he has no intention of doing anything that would land him in juvenile detention again. "It's not a place I ever want to go back to," he said. "It is jail. It's always cold."
And because he was in protective custody for a month after the attack on Brewer, Jarvis was not allowed to interact with anyone but guards, Melnick and family members who spent 45 minutes with him on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
According to the Broward Sheriff's Office, the group of teenagers found the rubbing alcohol at the Limetree Village apartment complex where the attack took place. Bent allegedly directed the others to pour it on Brewer in retaliation for Brewer's calling 911 on him the day before for allegedly trying to steal a custom bicycle belonging to Brewer's father.
The conflict between Brewer and Bent started, according to investigators, over $40 Brewer owed Bent for a video game.
Brewer's family declined to comment about Jarvis' comments.
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