Student accused of killing classmate details weekend fight, text messages that led up to deadly shooting

Updated: Oct. 31, 2018 at 11:54 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The student accused of fatally shooting another student at Butler High School Monday morning informed police of an altercation that happened prior to the shooting, which involved the victim and several others.

Jatwan Cuffie, 16, is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen.

A felony affidavit released Wednesday details what Cuffie said happened prior to and during the deadly encounter. Cuffie said he was in an altercation with several others Friday in the Harris Teeter parking lot on Margaret Wallace and Idlewild Road.

Cuffie said he and his friend were fighting several others when one of the men pulled out a knife, causing Cuffie to run off. McKeithen saw the fight, according to Cuffie.

Cuffie told police he texted McKeithen, asking who he thought won the fight, and that McKeithen indicated the other person did, not Cuffie.

The 16-year-old then texted McKeithen back, saying he “only thought that because [McKeithen] was with the other guys.” Cuffie said McKeithen asked “who is going to check me about it” and Cuffie replied that he was.

Cuffie indicated that one of the men involved in the Harris Teeter altercation wanted to “get him at school.” He said he also got a text asking if he “had beef with [McKeithen] too,” and that he didn’t text back.

Cuffie says he decided to go to the woods to get his gun for protection, according to the affidavit. "Jatwan said he had the gun in his jacket pocket when he went to the bus stop,” the affidavit states.

Cuffie told police he was standing in a corner at school Monday “praying” that he wouldn’t get messed with when McKeithen punched him in the face. “Jatwan put his arm up to protect himself and he grabbed the gun from his pocket and he shot Bobby one time,” the affadavit states.

Autopsy results confirmed that McKeithen was shot once in the torso.

(Mecklenburg County Jail | Family (custom credit))

The shooting happened around 7:15 a.m. in a hallway near the cafeteria inside the school. Police said a School Resource Officer was nearby when he heard a commotion and saw students running away.

Tuesday, Matthews police said the gun used in the shooting was stolen out of Gaston County in August. They said they are unsure who stole the gun.

McKeithen died after he was rushed to Carolinas Medical Center.

Funeral arrangements for McKeithen were announced Wednesday. According to the Million Youth March of Charlotte, the homegoing services for Bobby McKeithen will take place on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The services will take place at Progressive Baptist Church at 1600 Clanton Road in Charlotte. The visitation will be at 12 p.m. and the services will be at 1 p.m.

Within seconds after the shooting, the SRO immediately ordered a lockdown and students were told to shelter in place. The SRO then notified police over a police radio and two other SRO’s moved into the school.

About five minutes after the shooting, a teacher alerted officers that she was with Cuffie, and that he admitted to the shooting and he was ready to surrender, officials said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said the shooting stemmed from bullying that “escalated out of control.”

“We heard a bang and we seen them starting to fight," said Butler high school senior, Lester Henline. "All of the sudden he pulled out a pistol and everybody started running.”

Butler High School freshman, Joshua Cherry, sent WBTV a video showing the moment students were allowed to leave the school.

“A kid was shot,” said Cherry on the video. "Kids are crying. It’s a mess.”

Less than 12 hours after McKeithen was shot and killed by a classmate, hundreds gathered around a flag in front of the school. The flag was at half-staff.

[ “They really came together.” Butler students organize vigil for classmate killed ]

Cuffie made his first appearance in court Tuesday.

During his hearing, Cuffie stood quietly as attorneys asked a judge to give him the option for bail in the amount of $10,000. Attorneys cited Cuffie’s lack of previous offenses and his age as reasons why he should be eligible for bail. However, the judge denied the request, saying they could revisit the topic at Cuffie’s bond hearing set for November 7.

Cuffie appeared emotional, and his public defender comforted him, patting the teenager on the back before he left the courtroom. Cuffie had about a dozen family members and friends who came to support him, many of whom were in tears as they left the courthouse.

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