MATTHEWS – One Butler High School student is dead and another is in the Mecklenburg County Jail charged with first-degree murder following a shooting at the school shortly before classes were set to begin Oct. 29.
Freshman Jatwan Craig Cuffie was arrested shortly after allegedly shooting sophomore Bobby McKeithen, 16, following an altercation in a hallway near the school’s cafeteria at around 7:15 a.m. McKeithen was rushed to an area hospital but died from his injuries. Matthews police are not saying how many times McKeithen was shot but at least one student said the victim was shot in the back following a fight.
Cuffie, 16, surrendered to a Butler teacher and was then arrested at 7:21 a.m. Cuffie allegedly admitted to the teacher that he had shot McKeithen. There will be no school on Butler on Oct. 30 and students will not return to campus until Nov. 1 as Oct. 31 was a previously scheduled work day for teachers only.
“This is a sad and troubling day for all of us,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said at a press conference at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29. “Our hearts are heavy today as we mourn with the victim’s family and friends. More than two lives have been changed forever. We are going to give our teachers a chance to process what they have been through. We are going to give our students a chance to stay at home with family and loved ones and come to grips with what happened.”
Matthews police said the school’s resource officer reached the victim and started rendering aid within 15 to 20 seconds after the shooting and another officer outside directing traffic was also on the scene quickly. Wilcox said the shooting was a result of a conflict “between the two individual students” from bullying that escalated out of control.
“We are working right now with law enforcement to piece together what happened,” Wilcox said. “It was in fact an isolated event. As fear took over, a young person brought a gun to solve the problem.”
Matthews Police Capt. Stason Tyrrell said a teacher notified officers about five to seven minutes after the shooting that she was with Cuffie and that he was ready to surrender.
“Those officers moved to that area and they were able to take the suspect into custody,” Tyrrell said. “He admitted what he had done.”
Butler High junior Owen Danner was in the gym at the time of the shooting. He said the shooting occurred following a fight between the victim and the suspect. Danner said he had known the victim since the sixth grade.
“There was a fight and the person that lost brought a gun and shot him in the back as he was walking away,” Danner said. “It’s crazy.”
Danner spent about 90 minutes in the boys’ locker room next to the gym before students were released. Danner said teachers kept students calm while the school was on lockdown.
“They just locked the doors. We didn’t know what was going on,” Danner said. “When I found out, I thought ‘this is just crazy.’ People were freaking out and parents were rushing to the school. It was chaos.”
Butler senior Jordan Jackson lives in the same neighborhood as McKeithen. Jackson was one of around 100 people that attended a candle-light vigil for the victim on the night of Oct. 29 at the school.
“He was a neighborhood friend,” Jackson said. “He was a good kid. He was a really nice kid. He would always make people laugh and smile. This is a real tragedy. No mother should have to bury her own child. All I know is the two kids really didn’t get along with one another.”