NORTH PORT — Two moms who fought one another with shards of a broken coffee cup at a elementary school bus stop contradicted each another Wednesday on what happened and who is responsible.
While one of the women hopes they can move on from the Tuesday morning brawl that left both with serious wounds and stitches, the other said Wednesday she is going to pursue charges, calling the attack “premeditated.”
Leslie Arguelles, 32, of the 8300 block of Dorothy Avenue, said she was at the North Port Police station Wednesday in hopes of pressing charges.
Arguelles and Tiffani Rae Cruz, 26, of the 5300 block of Grobe Street, were involved in the fight early Tuesday.
Authorities said Wednesday an investigation into the fight is still underway.
“They are still working to make sure they are absolutely certain on the aggressor in this case,” North Port Police spokesman Josh Taylor said Wednesday. “No arrests have been made at this point.”
The women involved are among a large group of parents and children who gather daily near the intersection of Aero Avenue and Eager Street on North Port’s southwest side.
Cruz claims Arguelles had bullied a child a few weeks ago. Things seemed to have calmed down until Tuesday morning, she said.
Arguelles said the previous incident had already been hashed out between herself and the other child’s parents.
“I was not bullying no child,” she said.
From that point on, it’s a she-said, she-said situation for authorities to unravel. Police noted Tuesday there were other adult witnesses present, and some children who also watched and may give statements about what they saw.
Both say the other was the aggressor, Cruz saying she’d been sitting on the ground with a friend, commenting about how cute some younger children running around a yard were, when Arguelles approached her and wanted to discuss the previous incident.
“She walks directly up to me … she said we need to hash this out, we need to talk about this,” Cruz told the North Port Sun on Wednesday, noting she’d stood up at this point. “‘I’m not trying to fight you,’ I told her multiple times. ‘Leave me alone; get away from me.”
Cruz claims that’s when the fight began.
“She hit me in the nose with her nose and punched me in the jaw. I hit her with the cup,” she said. “I was trying to get her away from me. I just punched. I didn’t think of what was in my hand. She then picked up a piece of it and attacked me.”
The coffee cup, a blue decorative type, shattered. Cruz said it was self-defense and didn’t even consider the fact she’d been holding a cup when she punched back.
Arguelles rejects the claims completely, saying Cruz was the aggressor.
“She kept calling me a b----. She kept pursuing me,” Arguelles said.
Both adults note there were children in the area — including younger siblings who were there while their elementary school siblings were getting on the bus — who witnessed the fight.
Arguelles claims it was a premeditated attack and said she’s fortunate she didn’t die after she received serious injuries to her neck.
“She slashed my whole throat. She nearly killed me,” she said. “I have all the laceration wounds because she had cut the artery of my neck,” Arguelles said.
An instinctive move to pull on a shard of coffee cup stuck in her neck proved to be a life-threatening action, she said.
“I had a 7-inch piece of glass inside my neck and I pulled it out and I just started gushing blood and started bleeding out. … I guess I fainted and they had to airlift me and all of that,” she said.
Cruz told the North Port Sun nothing was premediated and it was strictly self-defense.
“She picked up this … shard of the cup that was on the ground and started slashing at me. She gouged my arm three times,” Cruz said.
Cruz said that’s when she was trying to retreat from the scene and realized Arguelles was also walking away.
She said she stopped because she realized it was a crime scene and she wanted to be there when police arrived.
Cruz said she needed 30 internal and external stitches to her arm and will likely be out of work for a week; she is employed as a chef.
Cruz said she kept her child out of school Wednesday to avoid going to the bus station and is fearful of what is going on.
“It’s a rowdy bus stop, there’s a lot going on — but not like this. Right now, I can’t even go to the bus stop and I had to keep (my child) from school because of threats,” Cruz said.
Cruz said she hopes the adults can come to an understanding of what happened and leave it at that, suggesting she probably wouldn’t seek charges against Arguelles.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I was defending myself and she should be charged — but I don’t want to see (her children) be without a mother,” Cruz said.
She said she’d been told a North Port Police investigator would be meeting with her this week. What would happen after that, she wasn’t sure.
Arguelles said she wasn’t seeking understanding between the adults, saying authorities are going to be involved.
“I’m at the police station right now to press charges,” Arguelles said Wednesday afternoon.
Cruz repeated her belief that she was in the right.
“If you’re going to corner somebody, people are going to defend themselves.”