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Student shot and killed on Butler High School campus in Matthews

Sixteen-year-old Bobby McKeithen, a tenth-grader at Butler High School in Matthews, North Carolina was killed yesterday in an incident described by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox as “bullying that escalated out of control.”

A school resource officer quickly sent the school into lockdown and the suspected shooter, Jatwan Cuffie — also 16, and a ninth-grader at the school — surrendered to police, according to Captain Stason Tyrrell with Matthews Police Department.

McKeithen was taken from the scene to get medical attention but succumbed to his injuries, police said. 

The public first learned about the shooting when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sent out an alert early yesterday morning explaining the incident and stating that the school was on lockdown.  

Later in the morning, the lockdown was lifted and some parents began picking their children up from schools, though classes remained in session throughout the day. 

There is no school at Butler today or tomorrow. Wednesday is an optional teacher workday. The shooting rocked Matthews, a suburb of Charlotte in southeastern Mecklenburg County. According to the 2017 School Report Card, Butler High School had 2,098 students. Of that, about 42.8 percent are considered economically disadvantaged, according to the website. 

On the ground

EducationNC CEO Mebane Rash arrived to the school late morning and reported about conditions on the ground.

Last night, students and others gathered for a vigil. The last speaker at the vigil was McKeithen’s girlfriend. She had known him since sixth grade. She said, “Can we all just tell him we love him so that he knows?” Those attending the vigil said in unison, “We love you Bobby.” 

Reporter Liz Bell was on the ground yesterday as well and attended a police press conference in the afternoon. Read her full report on that here

Response from legislators

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, chair of the House education and education appropriations committees, learned about the shooting a half hour before he was slated to walk into a meeting for the General Assembly’s Child Fatality Task Force. He said that though he doesn’t live in the district, his house is only 15 miles away from Butler. 

“This just cuts my heart up,” he said. 

Horn said that people today don’t seem to have the ability to control themselves and aren’t encouraged to do so. 

“You look around, you turn on television, people talk over each other, they talk at each other, they scream and holler. There’s no willingness to communicate. Just act out,” he said. “We’re teaching our kids this.” 

Horn said the legislature has been trying to address problems such as these at the Child Fatality Task Force meetings as well as the House Select Committee on School Safety.

Sen. Joyce Waddell, D-Mecklenburg, serves as a member of both the education and education appropriations committees in the Senate and works as an education consultant. 

She said that though the General Assembly has been studying how to keep schools safer, more is going to have to be done. 

“I think we still have to bump it up a notch,” she said. 

She said that making schools safer could include measures such as having students’ bags searched on the way in to school or bringing in more school resource officers.

“The schools need to be a safe place for students, for teachers,” she said. “It needs to be a safe place to learn.”

Other state leaders chimed in with their comments about the shooting as the day progressed. 

State Superintendent Mark Johnson called yesterday “a sad day for all of North Carolina.” 

“I am heartbroken to hear that we have lost a student to school violence in one of our schools. We have contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg authorities and will assist in any way we can, but of course our first thoughts are for the parents and other loved ones of the student who passed away. The safety of our students is paramount. This is a sad day for all of North Carolina, and we must work together as a community to address these problems.”

State Board of Education Chair Eric Davis called for everybody to come together to make sure schools are safe. 

“Today, tragedy struck one of our public schools. Our thoughts and prayers are with the parents, teachers, administrators and students of Butler High School. Too often, these incidents are impacting students across our nation. Today’s horrific event compels North Carolina’s leaders to take every step to ensure the safety of our students. During this most difficult time, we must come together to ensure those in our schools are cared for in the face of such senseless violence. The Board stands firm in its belief that schools must remain safe for students and those educating them each day.

The State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction are prepared to assist Butler as it heals from this horrific event.” 

EducationNC CEO Mebane Rash also shot the following video with Davis late yesterday afternoon. 

Governor Roy Cooper said his family was praying for the community in Matthews:

“I am heartbroken to hear about today’s school violence that has taken the life of a high school student in Matthews, and my family is praying for this community. I have been in touch with local officials to offer condolences and state support as needed. As we get more information it is critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools.”

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, expressed his sadness on Twitter about the shooting late in the morning:

“Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting death of a North Carolina student at Butler High School in Matthews this morning. My heart goes out to his loved ones as they honor his memory and his community as it comes together to address such tragic violence.”

While this school shooting was the first in North Carolina this year, it is one of 22 across the nation that have resulted in injury or death, according to Education Week’s school shooting tracker. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.