Brittany Graham was at work when she received a FaceTime call from her 12-year-old son Malikai, showing how his two front teeth had been knocked out by a 27-year-old man he said called him the “n-word.” The man, Vincent Cefalo, 27, of Port Charlotte, has not been arrested, but the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has turned the case over to the State Attorney with a request to charge Malikai with assault.
Graham said her son has to go down Cefalo’s road each day to get home from school because of the detour from Midway Boulevard. Around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Cefalo was drinking beer on his porch when her son and a few other kids were walking home.
“He told the ‘n– children’ to get off of his street,” she said.
Malikai went up and asked the man what he meant, and Cefalo allegedly said, “Come in arm’s length and I’ll show you.” Malikai said, ‘No, you’re a grown man,’ and Cefalo reportedly hit him three times, knocking out Malikai’s two front teeth and striking him with a beer can.
Graham said Malikai has never been in trouble in his life. She’s a single parent with a 6-year-old, an 8-year-old, and 12-year-old Malikai. He takes care of his younger brothers and has never gotten into an altercation with another child.
“I feel failed,” she said. “I go to work six days a week and pay taxes for these officers to serve and protect my children, and they are labeling him as a young, punk kid. They questioned parents and kids that aren’t even there. They didn’t question my son. They didn’t get a statement from him.”
According to the incident report, the CCSO deputy investigating the incident deemed Cefalo’s actions self defense. Witnesses who claimed to see the event gave varied, inconsistent accounts.
A friend of Malikai’s gave a similar account to Brittany’s. He said Cefalo told the kids to get out of the roadway, and Malikai yelled back, “Shut up, I know you ain’t talking to us.” Cefalo then told Malikai to come over, and the two argued until Vincent threw a beer can at Malikai and hit him three times with a closed fist. He said no one went onto Cefalo’s property, and Malikai never tried to hit or push him.
Another witness, who said he isn’t friends with Malikai but does goes to school with him, said Malikai attempted to push Cefalo before the man punched him. He said Malikai was on Cefalo’s property at the time.
According to Cefalo’s own statement, he told the kids to clear the road, and they became verbally confrontational, cursing at him and saying this was “their block.” He claimed Malikai charged at him, and he told the juvenile he would hit him if he came on his property. He claimed he felt he was going to get jumped as Malikai continued to approach. He had a beer can in his hand but “does not recall what happened to the beer can,” the report stated. “He does not recall if he threw it or if it came out of his hand when he put his hands up to defend himself.”
Graham said she arrived at the scene before the Sheriff’s Office personnel, and they kept her and Malikai there for an hour and a half but took no statement from him.
“I finally had enough and said, ‘I’ve got to get my baby to the hospital,’” she said.
At the emergency room, doctors were able to put Malikai’s teeth back in his mouth, but Graham said they’re still waiting to see whether they attach right or end up dying. When the deputy met up with her at the hospital, Malikai had a mouth full of gauze and couldn’t talk.
She asked if they were pursuing charges for Cefalo and was told they weren’t because he was afraid for his life.
“How did he feel threatened enough to hit a child hard enough to knock out his two front teeth?” she asked. “(Cefalo), as an adult, should have walked away. He’s going to have a scar on his face for the rest of his life.”
Due to the inconsistent witness statements, the report was submitted to the State Attorney’s Office — with a warrant request for the crime of assault on the part of Malikai.
Katie Heck, Public Information Officer for the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, said the State Attorney will review the request, and if they determine the charges are not appropriate, the request will be denied.