Slain Butler HS student's father: 'My son lost his life over foolishness'

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A teenager faced a judge Tuesday afternoon, accused of shooting and killing a classmate inside Butler High School Monday morning.

Police said Jatwan Cuffie got into a fight with Bobby McKeithen, pulled out a gun and shot McKeithen in a hallway full of students just minutes before the first class of the day began.

McKeithen and Cuffie

McKeithen died at the hospital.

His family gathered Tuesday morning to address the media and said McKeithen should be remembered as a sweet, loving, caring, and compassionate young man.

>> We had live continuing coverage of the chaos on campus. You can watch live updates on your Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV.

His parents, Bobby McKeithen and Ashley Mewborn, said they still have many questions about what happened Monday morning.

“You see your kids off to school, you never imagine that’s their last moment,” Bobby’s father said.

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His mother, Ashley Mewborn, asked that everyone remember her son as the loving and kind young man that he was -- and not to listen to rumors. She wants everyone to know that despite the mention of bullying having played a role in the shooting, her son was not a bully.

“He was not a bully,” she said. “He took care of all his siblings and made sure they were OK. He had the biggest heart, he had a heart of gold. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody.”

Bobby’s brother, Mario, also addressed those rumors.

“Bobby was a good brother,” he said. “They saying he was a bully but out of my whole life, I’ve never seen him bully nobody. Never associate with a bully. So, I don't know where that's coming from. Everybody loved him.”

It was 10 minutes after 7 a.m. Monday when a gunshot rang out in one of the main hallways of Butler High School. Police said the school resource officer found 16-year-old Cuffie minutes later in a nearby classroom and arrested him without resistance.

An ambulance rushed McKeithen to the hospital where he underwent surgery, but died.

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His father, Bobby, spoke to Channel 9 on Tuesday.

“I’m gonna miss him going to the prom, I’m gonna miss him going to graduation, going to college,” he said. “All that stuff got stopped because of ignorance. It ain’t gonna bring him back and don't get me wrong, I have remorse for the family that the shooting was done by because they’re about to lose a child as well -- in the system. I’m not having no hatred or ill will towards anybody about things, but at the end of the day we have to get to the point as a community, as a state, as a nation -- what do we do to address this gun problem and save our children?”

Parents of Bobby McKeithen, Bobby Mackey and Ashley Mewborn.

Ashley Mewborn had to tell her children that their brother was dead, and now has fears about sending them to school.

“I don't feel OK about it (sending them to school),” she said. “I sent him to school as I'm told to do and he never came home. That should never happen. A child shouldn’t have been able to walk in with a gun and shoot my baby, shoot him in his side and kill him. That should never happen. I don't feel safe about the school system. I'm worried about my other kids now because it happened too easily.”

She went on to say that the school district needs to make sure students are safe at all costs.

“As parents, they don't give us guidelines to go by to make sure our kids are safe. We do what's necessary. They should have to do the same. That's something they need to figure out. I can't tell them what to do, but something needs to be done.”

CMS offers ways to reach out for support:

  • If any student needs immediate counseling, they can reach out to a staff member directly.
  • Counselors are available on campuses through Student Services.
  • Staff members are encouraged to reach out if they need support. The LifeCare employee assistance program is free for all employees.
  • Students may come to Butler High for in-person counseling services beginning Wednesday, Oct. 31, during school hours.

Additional supports include:

  • The Mecklenburg County 24-hour Crisis Line (FREE) 1-800-939-5911
  • Mobile Crisis 704-566-3410 Option 1 (FREE service that will come to your location)

This is a time of trauma for the community and especially schools. The National Association of School Psychologists notes there are effective ways to talk with students:

  • Create a sense of safety by returning to normal, predictable routines as soon as possible.
  • Listen to their concerns and feelings.
  • Suggest they limit their use of media to lower their stress and to maintain balance and perspective.
  • Realize that sleep difficulties are common and can lead to fatigue and poor participation.

CMS superintendent Clayton Wilcox said bullying may have played a role in the shooting.

"First reports indicate that the conflict began with bullying that escalated out of control. and as fear took over, a young person brought a gun to solve their problems," he said.

But McKeithen’s father has trouble believing that.

“He was easy to get along with, so when you hear stuff like this, it kind of disturbs you a little bit,” he said. “I’m not here to say kids don’t make mistakes because we all do as a human, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s bigger than the situation. It’s about us becoming a community to stop getting these guns out here on the street and allowing innocent people to be hurt.”

This year, CMS unveiled a new tool to help crack down on bullying. A student or a parent can go to the district's website and report bullying anonymously.

The link is also on every school's website.

When asked if he thinks the school system should have stepped in before the shooting, McKeithen’s father said, “I feel they should have. It's been said they dropped the ball, and that they knew about it, and students were talking about it. And if that was the case, we have guidance counselors in place, we have officers on site, pull the student to the side, let's get to the bottom of it. Let’s deviate this problem before what happened yesterday happens.”

He went on to ask, “Why don't we have metal detectors in the school? I mean, there’s only so much an officer can do to the amount of students that are in that school. If a situation was already brought up that it was rumored going around and they had some kind of awareness of the situation, we just feel there should have been some more alertness. They come tell us that our son passed, but nobody could tell us that a situation was brewing? That part disturbs me. We always want to wait until a situation has escalated then we want to talk about, when we had maybe a week, two weeks that we could have addressed that situation and nobody said anything about it.”

“At the end of the day, the reality is my son lost his life over foolishness.”

Bobby McKeithen

Bobby McKeithen family statement:

"The family of Bobby McKeithen wishes to thank the Charlotte community for your prayers. As parents, we never expected to send our son to school and he would not return home. The impact this tragedy will have on the lives of our family, friends, and community is immeasurable, but we are faithful and we believe God will see us all through. This pain we are experiencing today is a pain that no mother, no father, no sister, no brother should ever have to experience. In spite of the stories and rumors being told, we want everyone to know that the stories and rumors about Bobby being a bully are not true. Countless teachers and friends have spoken out and said that he has never been known as a bully. He was a loving brother to his siblings, a child whose smile would make anyone smile. He is already greatly missed by family and friends. Our nights and our days are less bright because he is gone. Although there are so many unanswered questions, we ask that you respect the privacy of our family at this time."

Information about a candlelight vigil and funeral arrangements will be announced in the days to come.

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