Matthews police say they have yet to find proof that bullying led to the fatal shooting last week in the halls of Butler High School outside of Charlotte, according to a police statement issued this week.
The announcement was made as the first-degree murder case against the 16-year-old suspect, Butler High freshman Jatwan Craig Cuffie, enters its second week. He is accused of killing fellow student Bobby McKeithen, 16, in a fight on Oct. 29.
“At this point we have uncovered no information that supports a claim of bullying in the typical sense of the word,” says the police statement.
“What we know is this stems from an ongoing conflict between our suspect and the victim relating back to an event at the Harris Teeter parking lot. It is unfair to either party involved in this investigation to prematurely identify a cause before we have had the time to run down all the information.”
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The event at the Harris Teeter was described by WBTV as “an altercation” involving Cuffie and “several others.”
Matthews Police have also asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials to stop discussing bullying in connection with the case, reports WSOC. “We’re leaving the conclusions about what happened to law enforcement,” CMS spokesman Tracy Russ was quoted telling the station.
Suggestions that bullying began only hours after the shooting, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said in a press conference that the shooting was linked to “bullying that escalated out of control.”
McKeithen’s family released a statement not long after disputing that premise, the Observer reported.
“They’re saying he was a bully but out of my whole life, I’ve never seen him bully nobody,” his brother, Mario, told WSOC. “Never associate with a bully. So, I don’t know where that’s coming from. Everybody loved him.”
An attorney for Cuffie says his client had been the target of threats and bullying, reported the Charlotte Observer on Oct. 30.
“It’s already out there that there were threats to him and that there was an issue of bullying,” the Observer quoted Assistant Mecklenburg County Public Defender Joel Adelman saying said during Cuffie’s first court appearance.
A felony affidavit said Cuffie had been “in an altercation with several others” the Friday before the shooting in the Harris Teeter parking lot on Margaret Wallace and Idlewild Road, reported WBTV on Oct. 29.
The gun used in the shooting was stolen in August in Gaston County, the Observer reported.