A feud led one student to bring a stolen gun to a North Carolina high school and a sophomore classmate ended up dead, according to authorities and court documents.
Bobby McKeithen, a 16-year-old at Butler High School in Matthews, was fatally shot by Jatwan Craig Cuffie, a 16-year-old freshman, after a fight in a hallway on Monday shortly after 7 a.m., Matthews police said. Jatwan was charged with first-degree murder and held without bail after a court appearance Tuesday.
The suspect painted a story of a scared teen who had been in a fight days prior and brought the gun to school for protection, according to an affidavit from a Matthews officer obtained by CNN affiliate WSOC.
Matthews Police Capt. Stason Tyrrell has said the altercation was building up days before the shooting and that several people knew it might come to a head on Monday.
“We just didn’t have that information until after it had happened,” he said. School officials said it was a case of bullying that spiraled out of control.
But Bobby’s father, also named Bobby McKeithen, told reporters Tuesday that his son was never a bully, and his friends and teachers will confirm that.
Suspect says fight led to him bringing gun to school
The affidavit said Jatwan was involved in a fight at a grocery store Friday. He said one of the other boys, whose names were redacted in the affidavit, had a knife.
The boys exchanged text messages over the weekend on who won the fight, and there was talk about a new fight. According to the affidavit, Jatwan said he didn’t want to fight again or get into a fight at school.
After the shooting, Jatwan told police he went to the woods to get the gun before school because he needed it for protection, the officers write in the affidavit.
Jatwan alleged that at school, Bobby punched him in the face so the ninth-grader reached for the gun in his pocket and fired once. He said he considered firing again to scare his classmate, but ran instead to his math classroom. The gun was in a book bag, which a teacher moved aside as the two waited for police.
Father upset with school officials
McKeithen said he’s learned since his son’s death that Bobby and Jatwan had been feuding, and he questioned why he didn’t learn about the feud until his son was dead.
“Everybody always was attached to him because he was just laid back, he was cool, he was easy to get along with,” the dad said.
The boy’s mother, Ashley Mewborn, described the junior Bobby as “a sweet, loving, caring, compassionate young man who was going to be very successful, had he had the chance.”
He loved sports and loved to dance, and he always took care of his siblings, she said.
“He had the biggest heart,” she said. “He had a heart of gold. Everybody loved him, and he loved everybody.”
McKeithen said officials told the family their son had passed “but nobody couldn’t tell us that a situation was brewing? That part right there disturbs me,” he said.
Police: Gun stolen from vehicle
“I think that it’s already out there that there were threats to him and that there was an issue of bullying,” Joel Adelman, a public defender for the suspect, said outside court, according to WSOC. CNN’s attempts to reach the attorney were unsuccessful.
Jatwan did not enter a plea at Tuesday’s hearing. A bond hearing is scheduled for November 7.
According to WSOC, Jatwan’s parents attended the hearing but didn’t speak to the media.
Matthews police said the gun used in the shooting was stolen in August from a vehicle in nearby Gaston County.
CNN’s Jay Croft and Jamiel Lynch contributed to this report.