CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tuesday marks one year since tragedy hit the halls of Butler High School.
Police said Jatwan Cuffie got into a fight with Bobby McKeithen, pulled out a gun and shot Bobby in a hallway full of students just minutes before the first class of the day began.
For the first time, Bobby’s father allowed cameras into his home and sat down to talk exclusively with Channel 9’s Allison Latos about forgiveness, school safety and life without his son.
Bobby McKeithen's father, also named Bobby McKeithen, describes his son's spirit as mild, laid back and relaxed.
“He would always make the effort to call me,” he said.
On Oct. 29, 2018, Mckeithen got an unexpected call about a shooting at Butler High School, where his son went to school.
“She was like, ‘Oh my God, Bobby got shot, Bobby got shot.’ I said, ‘Bobby got shot? What are you talking about?'"
As Mckeithen rushed to Charlotte from his home in New Bern, other worried parents arrived at the school campus in Matthews demanding to know if their kids were safe.
Sixteen-year-old Bobby was the only victim.
“When it hits your own front porch, it’s a whole different thing, a whole different feeling,” McKeithen said. “There's still those nights where I can't sleep. There's still those nights where I cry. When I pick up the phone and hit his number by mistake.”
Police said the shooting stemmed from an off-campus fight.
Cuffie is serving a little more than 6 1/2 in jail for Bobby’s slaying. He reached a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
“Now you've got two families mourning. Two families that lost somebody,” McKeithen said.
When Latos asked if he was satisfied with Cuffie’s sentence, McKeithen said, “To be honest, no, but I'll tell you this: here is no justice for death.”
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McKeithen and his family have forgiven but cannot forget.
“I had to learn to forgive him the day it happened,” Mckeithen said. “Had I not, I would still be in some deep, dark space.”
The students and staff at Butler High haven’t forgotten either, which has enhanced school safety efforts.
Since Bobby's death, the district has implemented new safety practices including searching students with wands, searching backpack, installing cameras and better campus communication.
“I want education for parents and students; this situation could have been eliminated,” McKeithen said.
Every day, Mckeithen said he and his family struggle with heartache.
“I can find myself just looking at his picture sometimes and I can just cry,” he said.
But together, they celebrate Bobby's memory and happier moments.
McKeithen told Latos that he's much more protective of his other children now and finds himself worrying about them constantly.
The family refuses to acknowledge the anniversary of Bobby's death, but they did celebrate October 10, which would have been Bobby's 17th birthday.
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