The recent shooting at a North Carolina High School that left a 16-year-old student dead was the result of a bullying conflict that “escalated out of control,” officials said this week.
Butler High School sophomore Bobby McKeithen was gunned down by a classmate Monday morning after an altercation in the hallway that quickly turned physical, ABC 13 reported. School officials said tensions had been brewing between the suspect and the victim for weeks.
“And as fear took over, a young person bought a gun to solve the problems,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox told reporters this week.
Freshman student Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, was booked into the Mecklenburg County Jail and is facing a first-degree murder charge in the shooting. He’s being charged as an adult.
Witnesses said the shots rang out just before the final bell for students to head to their morning classes. Recalling the incident, Matthews Police Capt. Stason Tyrrell said school resources officers rushed into the hallway after hearing the commotion and immediately began administering aid to the victim.
McKeithen was rushed to a local area hospital, where he later died.
Meanwhile, inside the school, a teacher told authorities she was in a classroom with the accused shooter, who eventually confessed to his crime and surrendered to police around 7:30 a.m., according to Tyrell.
No one else was injured in the shooting, but the school remained on lockdown for about two hours.
“This event actually began days before this morning. So what took place this morning was something that built up,” the police chief said, adding that several people knew there might be a fight that morning. “We just didn’t have that information until after it had happened.”
Family and friends of the slain teen described him as someone who loved playing sports and dancing.
“He enjoyed life,” a relative told ABC 13. “He enjoyed his family. He enjoyed friends. Bobby was a good kid.”
McKeithen’s mother, Ashley Mewborn, disputed the notion that her son was a bully and said she’s lost faith in the school system she once trusted to keep her children safe.
“I don’t feel safe about the school system,” Mewborn said during a news conference. “I’m worried about my other kids now … a child shouldn’t have been able to walk in with a gun and be able to shoot my baby in his — just shoot him in his side and kill him. That should never happen.”
The teen’s father, whose name is also Bobby McKeithen, argued that the school should have taken better steps to intervene in the growing conflict between his son and the suspect.
“Some have asked me, how could someone, especially a student, come on to one of our campus(es) with a loaded gun,” Wilcox said, adding that the district’s schools aren’t equipped with metal detectors. “And I wish I had an answer to that. There really is no easy answer.”
Butler High School remained closed Tuesday. It’s still unclear which student was being bullied.
Watch more in the clip below.