(CLEVELAND) — Charles Ramsey, the colorful neighbor who said he helped free three women from a Cleveland house of horrors, told Nightline that another neighbor, Angel Cordero, got to Amanda Berry before him, then decided to walk away. But that is not how Cordero tells it.
In an interview with ABC’s Nightline anchor Cynthia McFadden, Ramsey, 43, described what he said happened Monday afternoon when he helped rescue Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, who allegedly had been kidnapped by Ariel Castro.
Ramsey said he was sitting at his home, eating McDonald’s, when he heard a piercing scream from the house next door.
“[A] scream that is etched in my head forever,” he said. “That sound stopped children from playing. Everybody looked at that house.”
Ramsey said he first looked out of his window and saw his neighbor, Angel Cordero, whom Ramsey called “the Dominican,” run from across the street to alleged kidnapper Castro’s house, which is next door to his. Then Ramsey said he raced outside to see what was going on.
“He ran over there, saw her, ‘Please help get me out,'” Ramsey said, mimicking a woman’s voice. “That’s what made me go over there and say, ‘Who the hell is trying to get out?'”
At first, Ramsey said he thought someone had broken into Castro’s house, gotten themselves locked in and couldn’t escape, but that all changed when he saw Berry’s face.
“When I saw that girl, I don’t recognize her, I saw a white girl, [I said] ‘What’s your problem?'” Ramsey said. “Keep in mind, the Dominican, as I’m saying this, runs back over there behind me. I look across the street and say, ‘She needs to get out of here.’ He says, ‘I’m not getting involved in that.'”
Ramsey said he then “did what I had to do” to get Berry out of the house. When the door wouldn’t open, Ramsey said he helped her bust out the aluminum bottom so she and her daughter, whom Ramsey said was with her, could break free. After Berry and the little girl were out, Ramsey said he called 911.
“I took the phone and called 911 and I said [to Berry], ‘Now listen, now you go across the street and you see that f** that didn’t help you, go get his cellphone, you call 911 from his phone, that way while I’m trying to get through and you trying to get through, we both bound to make this happen,'” he said.
That’s when Berry ran into a neighbor’s house across the street and made the dramatic 911 call, in which she said, “I’m Amanda Berry, I’ve been kidnapped and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m here, I’m free now.”
Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba singled out Ramsey by name in a Wednesday news conference, saying he deserved to be rewarded for responding to Berry’s cries for help.
Since then, Ramsey has been hailed as a hero. Hodge’s Cleveland, a downtown restauant where Ramsey works as a “dish technician,” started selling T-shirts with his likeness and the words “Cleveland Hero — Charles Ramsey” on them.
The proceeds, according to the restaurant, will go to charity.
The restaurant’s assistant general manager, Jimmy Henthorn, said Ramsey came into Hodge’s the day after the amazing rescue.
“Chuck stopped in to get his paycheck, saw everyone, and just wanted to say, ‘Still have my job, right?’ And I said, ‘Of course you still have your job.’ He said he was looking forward to just getting back to work.”
“He will be back for sure,” said another co-worker, Peter Brooks. “All of us hope that he does.”
But now, Angel Cordero is saying that he helped the women escape, not Ramsey.
Aurora Marti said she was the first person to see Amanda Berry screaming in Castro’s doorway.
As Marti and her friend, Ana, crossed the street towards Berry, they called out to Ramsey for help, but with the women’s broken English, communicating was hard, Marti told ABC News. So the women yelled for help from their friend, Angel Cordero, a fellow Spanish speaker.
Ramsey was there and did help free Berry, Marti said, but it was Cordero who kicked down Castro’s door, setting Berry free.
When Berry screamed, “I’m Amanda Berry!” according to Marti, she replied, “No, Amanda Berry died years ago.”
Cordero and Ana both agreed with Marti’s version of events.
Neither Marti nor Cordero deny that Ramsey was there and that he helped, Marti said, but the heavy lifting to set the women free, according to Marti, was done by Cordero.
It has since been revealed that Ramsey was convicted of domestic abuse years ago for beating his wife, and served time in prison. Since being released in 2003, he said he has tried to reform and has had no further trouble with the law. He and his wife have since divorced.
“No more stupidity,” Ramsey told Nightline. “She deserved better.”
But in the case of helping free four captives Monday, “hero” is a title Ramsey only accepts reluctantly.
“In their heart I’m a hero from the streets and from just living off this great land of ours,” he said. “I only did what I had to do.”
As for the $25,000 reward police promised for the girls’ safe return, Ramsey said it should go to the three kidnap victims, especially Amanda Berry, who on Monday took the absence of her alleged tormentor as an opportunity to scream for help.
“All you got to do is make that check out to Amanda Berry,” he said, “You make them out to Gina DeJesus. What else you got? You go give that to Michelle.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Catherine Treyz, CNN Newswire
Joshua Berlinger and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN Newswire