CLEVELAND, Ohio (AFP)
Charles Ramsey says he was sitting at home Monday, minding his business, tucking into some take-out McDonald's, when suddenly he heard screams coming from a house nearby.
From his front porch, Ramsey saw a young woman "going nuts," kicking at the door, struggling to get out of the unassuming two-story house in the quiet West Side neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.
"I go over there -- with my Big Mac -- and I say, 'What the hell's going on?'," Ramsey told reporters afterwards.
"And she says: 'I've been kidnapped. I've been in this house a long time. I want to leave. Right now'."
She was Amanda Berry, 27, who was kidnapped 10 years ago and whose daring escape led police to discover two other women, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight, who had been listed as missing for a decade.
Police arrested three brothers in their 50s in connection with the apparent kidnappings.
Berry couldn't open the door by more than a crack the size of hand, so Ramsey said he kicked out the lower panel, enabling Berry to crawl out carrying a little girl.
With a small crowd gathering to see what the commotion was about, Berry took refuge inside a house across from 2207 Seymour Avenue and called 911, the North American emergency services number.
"Help me," said Berry, clearly frantic. "I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now.
"OK," the 911 dispatcher replied. "Stay there with those neighbors and talk to the police when they get there."
Separately, an excited Ramsey placed his own 911 call.
"Hey, check this out," he told the dispatcher, explaining that Berry was telling bystanders that she and her daughter had been kidnapped.
"She said her name was Linda Berry or some shit like that," he said. "I don't know who the fuck that is."
"She black, white or Hispanic?" the dispatcher asked.
"She white," Ramsey replied, "but the baby looks Hispanic."
"OK, and what is she wearing?"
"Er, white tank top. Light blue sweat pants."
The dispatcher continued: "Are the people she said who did this, do you know if they're still in the house?"
To which Ramsey replied: "I don't have a fucking clue, brother."
When police arrived, Berry revealed that two other women -- DeJesus and Knight -- were inside.
They were swiftly rescued, and investigators sealed off the premises with yellow tape, combing the interior all through the night.
The owner of the house, one-time school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, was arrested -- ironically, at a nearby McDonald's -- as were his brothers Pedro, 54, and Oneil, 50.
The three young women spent the night in Cleveland's MetroHealth hospital, where a doctor, Gerald Maloney, said they were in fair condition in spite of their ordeal.
"They are able to speak, they are safe, and hospital staff are assessing their needs," he told reporters. "This is good. This is not the ending we usually see from these stories."
On its missing persons website, the FBI, which had offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to Berry's rescue, promptly added "rescued" to her now-outdated childhood portrait.
On YouTube, meanwhile, Ramsey became an Internet hero as interviews he gave local reporters went viral.
"I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms," he told ABC affiliate WEWS television. "Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway."
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