NC Teen Gunned Down In School Hallway; The Gun Was Stolen

CHARLOTTE, NC — One day after a 16-year-old high school sophomore was fatally gunned down at his school in a Charlotte suburb by another student, the community continues to grapple with how a loaded gun ended up in the hands of a student intent on using it. By Tuesday afternoon, police had divulged an important piece of that puzzle: the gun was stolen.

Jatwan Craig Cuffie, 16, pulled out a handgun in the crowded hallway of Butler High School in Matthews shortly after 7 a.m. Oct. 29, shooting victim Bobby McKeithen, 16, according to Matthews Police Department. McKeithen was transported to Carolinas Medical Center Main by medic, but died due to his injuries at the hospital. Cuffie was taken into custody at the scene.

Following the shooting Monday, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ top administrator, Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, spoke openly about the issues the school district will now have to confront.

“We don’t actively search every bag that comes into school each and every day. I will tell you that, from one perspective, yes we failed. Maybe we didn’t intervene early enough in a bullying situation. I don’t really know what took place.

“I don’t know how a young person gets a handgun in the state of North Carolina,” Wilcox said. “We are going to look into all those things and we will do our best to make sure this never happens again.”

According to Matthews police, the gun Cuffie used in the shooting was stolen from a car in Gaston County, NBC Charlotte reported Tuesday afternoon.

Stolen Gun
Prior to Monday’s fatal shooting, at least two loaded handguns had been found in student possession at Charlotte-area high schools within the first two months of the school year that began in late August.

Handguns are prolific in North Carolina, a fact underscored by federal data. In 2016, North Carolina had the 8th highest number of firearm deaths in the U.S., with 1,409 deaths blamed on guns, according to the Center for Disease Control.

When it comes to keeping up with their guns, North Carolina gun owners and dealers have work to do, according to a report from a Washington, D.C. think tank. Between 2012 and 2016, the state had 1,458 guns reported stolen from licensed gun dealers alone, making it the fifth highest state in the country to report such thefts in this category, according to the Center for American Progress.

Thefts from gun owners were even worse, according to the organization’s data. Between 2012 and 2015, nearly 64,000 guns were reported stolen in North Carolina from individual gun owners, worth an estimated $29 million.

The cost guns pose for children is even more staggering, according to a new study.

It cost nearly $3 billion to patch up the kids — 75,000 of them, or about 8,300 a year — who wound up in hospital emergency rooms with gunshot injuries over a nine-year period, according to a first-of-its-kind study just released. Of those children, a third required hospitalization and 6 percent died, researchers from Johns Hopkins said in the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Dr. Robert Sage, co-author of an American Academy of Pediatrics gun injuries policy, told the Associated Press that gun violence extends beyond mass shootings. Sage, a Tufts University professor of medicine, was not involved in the research.

“It’s extraordinarily sad because these children grow up in fear and it affects their ability to feel safe and comfortable at home or in school,” Sage said. “It has an enormous ripple effect on child development.”

The National Rifle Association and other members of the gun lobby have put pressure on the government that limits research on gun injuries and death. Dr. Denise Dowd, an emergency room physician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, said that has contributed to gaps in the understanding of the scope of the problem.

Security Plan Review

Cuffie appeared in court Tuesday and was denied bond, according to NBC. His uncle told the station his nephew was a victim of bullying — a sentiment Wilcox echoed Monday.

The deadly incident was the result of a fight between the two that was rooted in bullying, Charlotte’s top school administrator said, the Charlotte Observer reported. The fight “began with bullying that escalated out of control, and as fear took over a young person brought a gun to solve the problem,” Wilcox said.

Charlotte area schools could very likely see security changes, he said.

“We’ve worked really hard on school security over the last six, seven months after some fo the latest school shooting,” Wilcox said. “We’re going to review all of our procedures, we’re going to review our security plan and perhaps we’re going to have to do some things that are a little more aggressive.”


Beth Dalbey, Patch Staff, contributed.

Photo courtesy of the Matthews Police Department/Town of Matthews

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