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Charles Ramsey: I'm no hero in freeing of captive women

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Story highlights

  • I'm no hero, Charles Ramsey tells CNN
  • Charles Ramsey's 911 call: "She needs everything. She's in a panic, bro."
  • His quick action freed three women and a girl allegedly held captive
  • Ramsey works as a dishwasher at a local restaurant

Within hours of becoming a national hero, a viral video star and the top topic on Twitter, Charles Ramsey talked about having trouble getting sleep.

It wasn't because of all the excitement that followed his knocking down a Cleveland neighbor's door, freeing three women and a girl who police say were held hostage for years.

Instead, Ramsey told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday, it was about knowing he had lived for a year near the captive women on the city's West Side.

"Up until yesterday the only thing that kept me from losing sleep was the lack of money," the restaurant dishwasher said on "Anderson Cooper 360."

"I could have done this last year, not this hero stuff," said Ramsey. "Just do the right thing."

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Ramsey recounted Monday night's drama, when he heard a girl scream "like a car had hit a kid."

    He ran from his living room, clutching a half-eaten McDonald's Big Mac, to the house and helped free a woman identified as Amanda Berry.

    "Amanda said, 'I've been trapped in here. He won't let me out. It's me and my baby."

    Who are the three women freed in Cleveland?

    Ramsey and a man named Angel Cordero broke down the door, CNN affiliate WEWS reported in an earlier interview heard around the world.

    Ramsey told CNN he had never seen Berry before Monday, and at first, he could not place the name.

    "Berry didn't register with me until I was on the phone, like wait a minute, I thought this girl was dead."

    "She's like, 'This (expletive) kidnapped me and my daughter,'" he told the 911 operator, according to WEWS.

    Why the Web loves Ramsey

    After police arrived, Berry explained there were other women inside. When police came out with them, Ramsey told the station, "it was astonishing."

    Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland in 2003 on the eve of her 17th birthday.

    The other two women are Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, who disappeared at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, who vanished in August 2002, at age 21, according to police.

    Ramsey told CNN he is no hero and should not receive any reward.

    "You've got to put that being a coward and 'I don't want to get in nobody's business,'" he said. "You got to put that away for a minute."

    'I barbecue with this dude'

    While Ramsey's quick action in the largely rundown neighborhood made him a hero, his colorful descriptions to WEWS helped make him dream fodder for the Twitterverse.

    Explaining that he had no idea Ariel Castro, his neighbor, may have had other people inside his home, Ramsey said, "I've been here a year. You see where I'm coming from? I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music...

    "He just comes out to his backyard, plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and motorcycles, goes back in the house. So he's somebody you look, then look away. He's not doing anything but the average stuff. You see what I'm saying? There's nothing exciting about him. Well, until today."

    Castro "got some big testicles to pull this off, bro," Ramsey told WEWS. "Because we see this dude every day. I mean every day."

    He added, "I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway."

    In one of the top tweets about Ramsey, comedian Patton Oswalt wrote, "Dear Charles Ramsey: I am not a little pretty white girl, but I totally want to run into your black arms. #hero."

    Hodge's restaurant in Cleveland posted a message on Facebook saying, "we're extremely proud of our employee Charles Ramsey for not turning his back on the young women. He's a true Cleveland hero. Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with the women, their families and their friends."

    Restaurant owner Chris Hodgson told CNN that Ramsey goes above and beyond in his duties.

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    "You give him something to do, and he'll do more," he said. "We always look forward to seeing him, because you know he's gonna bring a smile to your face."

    Hodgson said people have offered to raise money for Ramsey, but the employee would end up giving it to the victims and their families.

    The company is working with other restaurants to plan fund-raisers for the families, Hodgson said.

    For its part, McDonald's Corp., on its Twitter account Tuesday, said, "Way to go Charles Ramsey -- we'll be in touch."

    Despite his assertions, Ramsey and Berry were praised as heroes by John Walsh, former host of TV's "America's Most Wanted."

    At an awards dinner for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Walsh said he called Ramsey on Tuesday to tell him that.

    "You are the guy who decided in 30 seconds to go up and spring a woman from a house of hell that she's been in and was desperate to get out that door with her 6-year-old daughter," Walsh recalled saying.

    Ramsey said he was raised to help women in distress, said Walsh.

    Ramsey interview goes viral, gets autotune treatment

    Breathless 911 call

    Ramsey's demeanor comes across clearly in his 911 call.

    "Hey bro," Ramsey tells the 911 operator. "Check this out. I just came from McDonald's right? So I'm on my porch eating my little food, right? This broad is trying to break out the f-----g house next door to me, so there's a bunch of people on the street right now and s--t. So we're like, 'What's wrong, what's the problem?' She's like, 'This m--------r done kidnapped me and my daughter ... She said her name is Linda Berry or some s--t. I don't know who the f--k that is, I just moved over here, bro. You know what I mean?"

    He then answers the 911 operator's questions about the woman, what she looks like, and what she's wearing.

    Ramsey tells the operator an address which he says corresponds to Berry's location, not Ramsey's home address. "I'm smarter than that, bro. I'm telling you where the crime was, not my house," he says.

    "Are the people that she said did this, are they still in the house?" the 911 operator asks.

    "I don't have a f-----g clue, bro. Like I said, I just came from McDonald's."

    The operator then asks him to check whether Berry needs an ambulance.

    "She needs everything. She's in a panic, bro. She's been kidnapped, so, you know, put yourself in her shoes."

    "We'll send the police out," the operator responds.