A 16-year-old is facing a judge after he was accused of shooting and killing a classmate inside a Matthews, North Carolina, high school.
Police said Jatwan Cuffie got into a fight with Bobby McKeithen, inside Butler High School in Matthews, North Carolina, Monday morning. Police said Cuffie pulled out a gun and shot Bobby in a hallway full of students minutes before the first classes of the day began.
McKeithen died at the hospital. Cuffie has been charged with murder.
McKeithen’s family addressed the media Tuesday and said he should be remembered as a sweet, loving, caring and compassionate young man.
His parents said they still have many questions about what happened.
“You see your kids off to school. You never imagine that’s their last moment,” McKeithen’s father, also named Bobby McKeithen, said.
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Charlotte Mecklenburg Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said bullying may have played a role in the shooting.
“First reports indicate that the conflict began with bullying that escalated out of control,” Wilcox said. “And as fear took over, a young person brought a gun to solve their problems.”
The younger McKeithen’s mother, Ashley Mewborn, asked that everyone remember her son as the loving and kind young man.
“He was not a bully,” she said. “He took care of all his siblings and made sure they were OK. He had the biggest heart, he had a heart of gold. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody.”
The younger McKeithen’s brother, Mario, also addressed rumors about bullying.
“Bobby was a good brother,” he said. “They saying he was a bully but out of my whole life, I’ve never seen him bully nobody. Never associate with a bully. So, I don’t know where that's coming from. Everybody loved him.”
The senior McKeithen also commented.
“(My son) was easy to get along with, so when you hear stuff like this, it kind of disturbs you a little bit,” he said. “I’m not here to say kids don’t make mistakes because we all do as a human, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s bigger than the situation. It’s about us becoming a community to stop getting these guns out here on the street and allowing innocent people to be hurt.”
Mewborn had to tell her children that their brother was dead and now has fears about sending them to school.
"I don't feel OK about it (sending them to school)," she told WSOC. "I sent him to school as I'm told to do and he never came home. That should never happen. A child shouldn't have been able to walk in with a gun and shoot my baby, shoot him in his side and kill him. That should never happen. I don't feel safe about the school system. I'm worried about my other kids now because it happened too easily."
Mewborn went on to say that the school district needs to make sure students are safe at all costs.
“As parents, they don’t give us guidelines to go by to make sure our kids are safe,” she said. “We do what's necessary. They should have to do the same. That's something they need to figure out. I can't tell them what to do, but something needs to be done.”
Related: 16-year-old charged with murder in shooting death of classmate at North Carolina high school
The elder McKeithen said he’d miss his son’s milestone moments, like prom, high school graduation and college.
“All that stuff got stopped because of ignorance. It ain’t gonna bring him back -- and don't get me wrong, I have remorse for the family that the shooting was done by, because they’re about to lose a child as well in the system,” he said. “I’m not having no hatred or ill will towards anybody about things, but at the end of the day we have to get to the point as a community, as a state, as a nation -- what do we do to address this gun problem and save our children?”
This year, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools introduced a new tool to help crack down on bullying. A student or a parent can go to the district's website and report bullying anonymously.
The senior McKeithen said the school should have stepped in before the shooting and questioned policies the school had to prevent shooting incidents.
“At the end of the day, the reality is my son lost his life over foolishness,” he said.