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Three men honored for saving burning neighbor

Special photo 
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson and Clayton Fire Chief Jeff Hood flank heroes Edward Brown, Raphiel Bell and Kareem Revies, with victim, Tara Best, and her mom, Nicole Ramsey.

Special photo Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson and Clayton Fire Chief Jeff Hood flank heroes Edward Brown, Raphiel Bell and Kareem Revies, with victim, Tara Best, and her mom, Nicole Ramsey.

Before Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson left the courtroom, following the conviction of a man who poured gas on his girlfriend and set her afire, she said she wanted three witnesses honored for saving the victim’s life.

“I really think they deserve to be recognized,” said Lawson. “I feel like they saved Tara Best’s life.”

About a month later, Lawson stood with Clayton Fire Chief Jeff Hood as the trio were lauded as heroes in the January 2011 attack. Kareem Revies, Edward Brown, and Raphiel Bell, testified during the trial to seeing a blazing Best running through their College Park apartment complex. Best’s live-in boyfriend, Orville Cromwell Brooks, Jr., had thrown gasoline on her and set her on fire during a fit of jealous rage.

Best and her mom, Nicole Ramsey, hugged and thanked each of the three heroes for their actions.

Hood said it was a privilege to share in the spreading of positive news for Clayton County.

“Often we hear of tragic and violent events on the news in our community and around the county, but the news of the heroic acts of these three men is good news — good news of what happens when citizens take care of one another and make a difference,” said Hood. “Their willingness to help someone in need is a testament to what’s good in Clayton County, and an example of what it takes to build a community.”

Bell’s seven-minute call to 911 was played during Brooks’ February trial.

“Her boyfriend did it to her,” Bell told the dispatcher. “Her boyfriend did it. He’s wearing a black coat, he has a bald head. He’s running away.”

Brooks told police he was chasing Best to help put out the flames. But the three witnesses testified to seeing Brooks run away from her and into nearby woods. He evaded capture for three days.

Revies and Bell also testified to hearing Best identify the man who doused her with gasoline and set her afire as Brooks.

“She was crying, shaking,” said Revies during the trial. “She said, ‘My mom told me not to come back to this home. I should have listened. I should have got out of the relationship.’”

Brown used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames tearing at Best’s skin.

Each man received a certificate detailing his role in saving Best’s life. They also testified during the trial, providing crucial testimony that contradicted the defendant’s assertion that the fire was an accident. Brooks refused to accept responsibility for the fire even after his conviction, saying he was sorry, but it was an accident.

Lawson said the accolades are well-deserved.

“In my 27-year career, I’ve never before honored anyone involved in a case as a hero,” she said. “But obviously, from all the testimony, if these three men had not acted spontaneously and courageously, she would have died.”

Best suffered burns over more than 68 percent of her body, with 40 percent being third-degree.

Brooks was sentenced to 205 years in prison.