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Charles Ramsey is a Cleveland, Ohio resident who rose to internet fame in early May 2013 after assisting three women who had been missing for nearly a decade after being abducted by captor Ariel Castro. As the shocking story unraveled, Ramsey appeared in an interview segment for a local news report and gave a colorful account of how it all happened. Following the YouTube upload of the interview clip, Ramsey instantly became hailed as a hero on the web.
On May 6th, 2013, Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michele Knight, three women who had been missing for a decade, were found alive in a residential area south of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. According to the news reports, the women were able to escape from their captor’s house with the assistance of Charles Ramsey, a neighbor who promptly responded to Amanda Berry’s call for help and set them free by kicking a hole in the locked door. Later that same day, Ramsey appeared in a news interview with ABC affiliate NewsNet5 and provided a colorful witness account (shown below). Within 72 hours, the WEWSTV YouTube channel’s upload of the interview received over 5.68 million views and 9,200 comments.
During the early hours of May 7th, several news articles, image macros and discussions related to the story were featured on the front page of Reddit, with many readers fixating on Ramsey’s role in the rescue and his memorable quotes from the news interview clip. By 6 p.m. (ET), more than 130 posts about Charles Ramsey had been submitted to the site, including quite a few image macros praising him as a hero dubbed “Good Guy Charles Ramsey.”
Around the same time, American stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt posted a tweet conveying his admiration for Ramsey. Within 14 hours, the tweet received over 2,200 retweets and 1,100 favorites.
Dear Charles Ramsey: I am not a little pretty white girl, but I totally want to run into your black arms. #hero— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 7, 2013
According to the Twitter analytics site Topsy, tweets mentioning “charles ramsey” peaked on May 7th at 9:49 a.m. ET (shown below). Throughout the day, the keywords “Charles Ramsey” were listed as a worldwide trending topic on the microblogging and social networking site.
At 11:11 a.m. (ET), the viral content site BuzzFeed posted a compilation of notable tweets referencing Ramsey, many of which included image macros joking about the video (shown below, left) and Totally Looks Like photos comparing Ramsey to the villain Sho’nuff from 1985 martial arts film The Last Dragon (shown below, right).
At 2:40 p.m. (ET), the official McDonald’s Corporation Twitter feed congratulated Ramsey for his bravery and said they would “be in touch.”
We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey- we’ll be in touch.— McDonald’s Corp. (@McDonaldsCorp) May 7, 2013
On May 7th, YouTuber AmazingLife247 uploaded a recording of Ramsey’s 911 call with the police after rescuing Amanda Berry (shown below). Within 72 hours, the video received over 1.03 million views and 2,400 comments.
Ramsey’s interview clips and audio recording of his 911 emergency call instantly became fodder for auto-tune and musical mash-ups on YouTube, leading to a handful of remixes including YouTuber G Money’s “Little Pretty White Girl” and Schmoyoho’s “Dead Giveaway” (shown below). In less than 48 hours of upload, the videos gained more than 500,000 views and 1 million views respectively.
Anderson Cooper Interview
On May 7th, Ramsey was interviewed by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who said he did not feel like a hero and that any reward should go to the victims he rescued.
On May 8th, 2013, Ariel Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, with a bail of $2 million set the following day. On June 7th, a grand jury indicted Castro with 329 counts, including two murder charges for the unwanted termination of two of the captive women’s unborn children. The indictment was expanded to a total of 977 counts on July 12th. On July 26th, Castro agreed to a plea bargain by pleading not guilty to 937 of the counts to be sentence to life in prison without the change of parole and was formally sentenced on August 1st. Prior to his sentencing, Castro spoke to the court defending himself by saying he was “not a monster” but suffered from sex, pornography addiction and previous sexual abuse.
On September 3rd, prison staff at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, discovered Castro hanging from a bed sheet in his cell and was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. that evening after several failed attempts to resuscitate him. On the following day, coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak declared Castro’s death a suicide by hanging. Also on September 4th, several Reddit posts related to the story reached the front page of the social news site, several of which featured image macros mocking Castro’s suicide (shown below)
On September 5th, The Huffington Post published an article highlighting notable sarcastic tweets confusing Ariel Castro with the former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Everyone is talking about Ariel Castro being dead, but no one is talking about what this means for Cuba— JohnRayWilson (@JohnRayWilson) September 4, 2013
As Charles Ramsey’s story continued to make the rounds, several news publications ran op-ed columns raising concerns that there may be a recurring pattern of working-class African American subjects getting exploited as racial stereotypes in the online remix culture, including The Atlantic, Slate, NPR and ThinkProgress among others.
The Ramsey Burger
On May 14th, Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Hodge’s, a restaurant in downtown Cleveland where Ramsey works as a dishwasher, began selling a new burger dish called “The Ramsey Burger” in tribute to his heroism and penchant for the classic American sandwich (shown below). While the burger was initially introduced as a temporary menu item, it has since become a part of the permanent menu and even inspired copycat items in other local eateries.
Free Burger for Lifetime
On May 22nd, Cleveland news sites reported that more than a dozen of Ohio restaurants and at least one in Pennsylvania have pledged to provide Charles Ramsey with free burgers for life in recognition of his heroism. According to Scott Kuhn of Driftwood Restaurant Group, local business owners wanted to honor the man who stopped his meal midway through, so they decided to gift Ramsey with a “Chuck Card” which he can present at any of the participating restaurants to get a free burger.
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Hodge’s to Unveil Ramsey Burger in Honor of Hero Employee
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Charles Ramsey, who helped free Cleveland kidnap victims, gets burgers for life
The Huffington Post – Ariel Castro Is Dead Twitter Users Think Fidel Castro Is Dead