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The New York Times | October 29, 2018 | By Sandra E. Garcia, Andrew R. Chow and Matt Stevens
A student at a high school near Charlotte, N.C., fatally shot a schoolmate on Monday morning during a fight before classes began, sending dozens of horrified students fleeing for safety, the authorities said.
Officials said that bullying that had “escalated out of control” had led to the fatal encounter at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., but would not say who had done the bullying.
“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell, a patrol commander for the Matthews Police Department, at a news conference. “Several people knew about it — not knew there was going to be a shooting, but knew there was going to be a likelihood of some sort of altercation this morning.”
The police said that Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at the school, was fighting with Bobby McKeithen, 16, a sophomore, in a hallway after 7 a.m., when Mr. Cuffie shot Mr. McKeithen. They did not say what kind of gun was used or how many times Mr. McKeithen was shot.
Mr. McKeithen was transported to the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where he died, the police said.
Mr. Cuffie was charged with first-degree murder on Monday afternoon, Captain Tyrrell said. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
Bobby McKeithen, 16, a 10th grader at David W. Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., was shot to death at school early Monday.
“We have literally dozens if not hundreds of kids who were in the hallway when this fight took place who witnessed one of their own be shot and fall to the floor before they ran away in a panic,” said Clayton Wilcox, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent.
He said the school system was “incredibly saddened by the fact that we had a loss of life on one of our campuses today.”
In a statement late Monday, Mr. McKeithen’s family thanked the community for its prayers and asked for privacy, while also acknowledging that the “tragedy has impacted and changes our lives forever.”
“As parents we never expect to send our children to school and they not return home,” the statement said. “The pain that we are experiencing is a pain that no mother or no father should ever have to experience.”
In a telephone interview, Mario Black, the founder of the Million Youth March of Charlotte and a friend of the McKeithen family, described Mr. McKeithen as a young man who was respectful and outgoing. He loved to dance, was a football fan and could often be found on FaceTime with his friends, Mr. Black said.
Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, a ninth grader at Butler High School, has been charged with first-degree murder in the killing.
“It’s been an emotional day,” he said. “You hear about it other places, but for it to be here at the front door, it’s unbelievable.”
A school resource officer called the police Monday morning, saying that he was with the victim and that he had the perpetrator in custody, Captain Tyrrell said during the news conference. The school, its hallways crowded with students before classes began, immediately went into lockdown, according to the police.
“It’s been an extremely tragic event for us here in Matthews,” Capt. Tyrrell said, adding that the investigation was continuing.
Joseph Hanks, 32, had just dropped his son off at school after 7 a.m. when he saw people yelling, screaming and running out of the school.
“I saw a police officer in a full-blown run coming toward me, running as fast as he can,” Mr. Hanks said in a phone interview. “I heard what sounded like someone come over the P.A. system; I believe they were talking about the school lockdown.”
“What took place this morning is something that built up,” said Capt. Stason Tyrrell of the Matthews Police Department.
Mr. Hanks immediately started thinking of how to get his son and himself out of the area as quickly as possible. His son, Brennan Timmons, 15, had made it to the school’s entrance when he heard the officer yelling to leave. Brennan ran back to his father’s car.
“He told me, ‘There’s an active shooter in the school,’” Mr. Hanks said. “The other kids were yelling that there was a shooter, and everyone was pouring out, trying to get away from the school.”
After the shooting, many students were picked up by their parents, but classes remained in session for students who had not been picked up, Mr. Wilcox said. He added that school would be canceled at Butler High on Tuesday.
In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in February that left 17 dead, Mr. Wilcox proposed to county commissioners a $1.5 billion budget that included salary raises for teachers and funds for school safety measures. The budget allocated $9 million for hardened doors, two locksmiths, perimeter fencing, additional locks, glass reinforcement and classroom surveillance cameras. The budget also allocated $600,000 for nine security positions that included five police officers.
The budget was approved in June.
On Monday, the police could not immediately say how a student was able to obtain a firearm and bring it onto campus.
Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina, a Democrat, said in a statement that he was “heartbroken to hear about today’s school violence.” He added that it was “critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools.”
Mr. Wilcox, the superintendent, said, “We are going to look into all of these things and make sure it never happens again.”
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