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Beating victim still in critical condition
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   A woman brutally beaten by a man under the influence of “spice,” a legal alternative to marijuana, remains in critical condition after the attack.
    Amber Fields, 20, of Swainsboro, suffered broken facial bones, a fractured skull, shattered nose and other complications after reportedly being beaten in the head and face by 23-year-old Thomas Jason Browning at his Brannen Road home earlier this month. Browning told investigators he and Fields had been smoking spice and were having reactions to the drug, but when deputies arrived at the scene, they discovered Fields has been violently attacked and beaten about the head.
    Browning remains behind bars without bond, charged with aggravated assault with intent to murder and aggravated battery.
    Fields still cannot breathe on her own, but “ swelling has  gone down” and pumps used to reduce fluid buildup have been turned off for several hours a day, said Paula Fields, Amber’s mother. “She is now able to handle that.”
    Amber is responding to stimuli such as nurses pinching her toes, by kicking in reaction, she said. “She moves her feet and hands in her sleep” and her eyes flickered open once Thursday.
    Paula Fields said she is overwhelmed by community support for her daughter, which includes thousands of Facebook supporters who don’t even know the family, she said.
    Fund raisers are being planned and purple domestic violence ribbons are appearing everywhere in Amber’s support, she said.
    “We have been overwhelmed. We’re speechless,” she said Thursday as she called from Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, where she has remained by her daughter’s side since the beating.
    “It’s amazing how the community pulled together for Amber. She’s going to be so surprised when she wakes up.”
    Bulloch County 911 received a call from Browning around 12:54 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, alerting them to a situation at Browning’s residence, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson. Browning told deputies he and Fields ”had ingested some sort of drug and were having a reaction to the drug.”
    At the scene, responders “observed Browning with blood on his person” and “observed a large amount of blood in the common area of the residence,” he said. “Fields was located unresponsive on the floor with obvious trauma to her head.”
    Amber Fields underwent several surgeries to repair an aneurysm in her chest, facial reconstruction and other procedures.
     Packets of the drug “spice,” which is readily available in tobacco and smoking stores, were found in Browning’s home, Anderson said. The packets are marketed as “natural aromatic incense or potpourri,” but investigators found through research that the substance is used as a drug that is smoked.
     Although legal in most cases (some types have substances that are illegal, according to Bulloch County Drug Suppression Team Capt. Rick Rountree), the drug has been reported to have some serious and potentially deadly side effects including paranoid reactions, anxiety attacks, hallucinations, nausea and a chemical dependency. 
    Georgia state Rep. Jan Tankersley said she is looking into supporting a bill dropped into legislature last year that would make spice illegal. A federal ruling was passed that outlaws the drug, but individual states must still enact laws governing the substance, she said.
    Holli Deal Bragg maybe reached at (912) 489-9414.

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