vernal-and-tyler-rattray_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE – Investigators are looking for a summer camp counselor who is accused of hitting a 7-year-old boy, giving him a large knot on his head, bruises and a black eye.

Michael Edwards; a 20-year-old former Broward County parks recreational worker,  was fired over his alleged abuse of Tyler Rattray of Lauderhill, according to the boy’s father, Vernal Rattray.

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“They [BSO] told me last week they are trying to find him [Edwards], and will arrest him for slapping my son,”  Vernal Rattray told the South Florida Times during an Oct.19 interview. “They said they will pick him up.”

Officials with the Broward Sheriff’s Office are not commenting on the matter.  But Rattray said he was called into BSO headquarters in Fort
Lauderdale several weeks ago.  There, he said, he signed a criminal complaint, expressing a desire to move forward with a criminal case over the slapping incident.

BSO was investigating the incident as a case of misdemeanor battery.

Vernal Rattray said, “They told me the case was going to the state and someone would get in touch with us after they picked him up, but we have not heard anything.’’

A check of records on file at the Broward Clerk of Courts this week did not reveal any case filed against Edwards. The Broward State Attorney’s Office would not confirm or deny whether an arrest warrant has been issued for Edwards.

“The case is ongoing and we're not in a position to discuss it,” said Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy, in an email sent to the newspaper on Monday, Oct. 19. “In general, I can tell you that we're not permitted to acknowledge or discuss not-in-custody cases.”

The alleged incident happened on July 28 as the boy attended a summer program at Rev. Samuel L. Delevoe Park, at 2520 NW 6 St., west of Fort Lauderdale.

Tyler said Edwards saw him hit another child in the camp, and then ordered him to slap himself, just to see how it feels. When Tyler refused to slap himself, he said, Edwards grabbed Tyler’s hand and slapped it against the boy’s face, forcing Tyler’s head into a wall.

Arrest warrants generally remain confidential until the subject is taken into custody, as are police reports involving juveniles.

Nevertheless, the newspaper has obtained a copy of the BSO report, which is stamped “JUVENILE CONFIDENTIAL,” in big letters. According to the report, the incident was transferred to the department’s Abuse and Neglect Unit. It was later reported to the state Department of Children and Families.

The phone numbers on file for Edwards on his Broward County job application are not working. No one answered the door at the northwest Fort Lauderdale home listed on his employment application as his address, and he could not be reached for comment.

In the July 28 incident, Vernal Rattray was called to the park to pick up his son from summer camp early, due to a reported injury. When he arrived at the park, he said Edwards told him his son had hurt himself in a fall, causing the knot on his head and swelling on his face, as well as bruises and a black eye.

“They lied to me, and my son complained about being in pain that night, and that’s when he and the other children told his mother what really happened,” Rattray said.

Those other children are Tyler’s cousins and friends, who attended the summer camp with him, his father said.

Rattray said that immediately after the incident, he took Tyler to the emergency room. Tyler was treated for minor injuries and released the same night from Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, according to the BSO report.

Rattray took his son to BSO headquarters the following day and reported the incident to authorities there.

Tyler’s father withdrew him from the program the day after the incident, and also reported it to the park’s manager, Valerie Wolberg, who began her own investigation.

Tyler’s version of what took place was confirmed by several other children in the program, as well as another recreational worker, who also witnessed the incident.

Broward County Human Resources Director Jim Acton could not be reached for comment. It is unclear whether any county staff have been questioned, or have submitted statements to investigators.

Edwards was fired the same day Rattray reported the incident to Wolberg. Based on information provided by Broward County’s payroll division, Edwards was hired on June 10, 2009, and earned $8.38 per hour.

Vernal Rattray said his son still has nightmares about the incident, and that his condition is being monitored.

“We hope he is OK, but time will tell,’’ Rattray said. “I know Edwards’ family, and not one of them have contacted us to apologize or to see how Tyler is doing, so that’s why I went ahead and want to see him charged.’’

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Vernal Rattray, right, and son Tyler.