CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The teenager accused of fatally shooting a fellow student at a North Carolina high school appeared before a judge Tuesday as his public defender requested a low bond and permission for the boy to stay home with his mother while awaiting trial.
Jatwan Craig Cuffie, the ninth-grade student charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the death of Bobby McKeithen, 16, appeared in shackles in Mecklenburg County District Court.
Cuffie, 16, showed virtually no emotion as Judge David Strickland explained the charges the boy faces after McKeithan was shot a day earlier in a hallway of Butler High School in Matthews, a Charlotte suburb. Cuffie said nothing when the judge asked him if he had any words.
Public Defender Joel Adelman asked Strickland to set Cuffie’s bond at $10,000 and place him in his mother’s custody at their home, saying Cuffie poses no threat to the community. Adelman also proposed the teen be placed under electric monitoring.
Strickland said the issue of the bond would be addressed at a hearing scheduled Nov. 7.
Tuesday’s hearing lasted about 10 minutes and Currie then was returned to jail, where he is being held without bond. Moments later, his family left the Mecklenburg County Courthouse without speaking to reporters.
“He’s their son. He’s their baby, he’s 16 years old,” Adelman said of the family. “And it’s difficult for them, as it would be for any parent.”
Prior to the hearing, McKeithen’s family said at a news conference that the 10th grader was a brother with “the biggest heart” who loved sports and dancing.
An affidavit filed in connection with a fatal shooting at a North Carolina high school indicates a recent fight in a store parking lot may have sparked the shooting.
WSOC-TV in Charlotte cites a Mecklenburg County arrest affidavit based on a police interview as saying Jatwan Cuffie was involved in a fight outside a grocery store last Friday with four other boys. According to the affidavit, Bobby McKeithen wasn’t involved in the fight, but was asked his opinion as to who won.
The affidavit said Cuffie took a gun to school for protection Monday, and when the teenagers arrived at Butler High School, McKeithen punched Cuffie in the face as they stood in a hallway. According to the affidavit, Cuffie then shot McKeithen and went to a classroom, where a teacher took a bag containing the gun.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said Monday that the shooting appears to have stemmed from a case of bullying “that escalated out of control,” but McKeithen’s family disputed the idea that McKeithen was a bully.
His mother, Ashley Mewborn, said she’s worried about her other children and wants the school system to do whatever it has to do to keep students safe.
Matthews Police Capt. Stason Tyrrell said a school resource officer was in the school cafeteria at 7:14 a.m. Monday when he and security officers heard a commotion and encountered students running in a nearby hallway. Tyrrell said the resource officer found the victim, tried to give aid and called for a school lockdown. Within minutes, a teacher notified school officials that she was with a student who wanted to turn himself in.
Tim Aycock, public information officer for Matthews police, confirmed Tuesday that the gun used in the shooting was stolen in August from a car in Gaston County, adjacent to Mecklenburg County. Aycock said investigators are trying to determine where Cuffie got the gun.
Also, Aycock said the Mecklenburg County medical examiner found McKeithen died of a single gunshot wound to the torso.
Matthews is about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from downtown Charlotte.
By TOM FOREMAN Jr.
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