By Katherine Lam
Published October 29, 2018
A North Carolina high school student was shot and killed after a fellow classmate opened fire Monday in a crowded hallway at the start of the school day, police said.
Officers responded to a report of a shooting at Butler High School, about 12 miles southeast of Charlotte, around 7 a.m. The school was placed on lockdown as emergency crews took the student, who was not identified, to a hospital where he later died from his injuries, Matthews Police Department Patrol Commander Mason Tyrrell said in a Monday news conference.
"It's been an extremely tragic event here for us in Matthews for the Butler High School community," Tyrrell said.
Officers took the suspected shooter — identified as Jatwan Craig Cuffie, a 16-year-old freshman — into custody and recovered the weapon used in the incident, officials said. He was charged as an adult with first-degree murder and is being held in the Mecklenburg County jail.
“This is believed to be an isolated incident and the scene has now been secured by police,” Matthews police said in a statement on Facebook.
Tyrrell said school surveillance video captured the shooting that appeared to have stemmed from a fight between the students. It's unclear how the student obtained a gun.
A student at Butler High School told Fox 46 a physical fight broke out between the classmates prior to the shooting.
“I was in the cafeteria, the hallway next to the cafeteria...and I just heard a shot. Well, I heard a loud noise. I thought it was someone banging against the lockers. I thought it was a prank at first, and I saw people running,” a student told Fox 46. “...As soon as I get to my hallway, teachers are yelling, ‘There’s a lockdown, there’s a lockdown! There’s a shooter!'”
A crowd of frustrated parents gathered on the school's campus, demanding answers and the release of their children from the school. The students were able to leave the campus once the lockdown was lifted.
"We are incredibly saddened by the fact that we had a loss of life on one of our campuses," said Clayton Wilcox, superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. "What makes it doubly worse is it was one of our students who was the shooter."
Wilcox said the shooting appears to have stemmed from a case of bullying "that escalated out of control." Neither Wilcox nor Tyrrell said which student was being bullied. Tyrrell said several people apparently knew there would be an altercation at the school, but police had no information prior to the incident.
Wilcox said there were many students in the school's hallways when the deadly shooting happened. He said officials will be reviewing security plans to increase safety.
“We worked really hard on school security the last six or seven months,” Wilcox said. “We will review procedures and security plans and perhaps will do things that are a little more aggressive.”
State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a statement he was "heartbroken" by the shooting.
"I am heartbroken to hear that we have lost a student to school violence in one of our schools. We have contacted Charlotte-Mecklenburg authorities and will assist in any way we can, but of course, our first thoughts are for the parents and other loved ones of the student who passed away. The safety of our students is paramount. This is a sad day for all of North Carolina, and we must work together as a community to address these problems," Johnson said.
"I am heartbroken to hear about today's school violence that has taken the life of a high school student in Matthews, and my family is praying for this community. I have been in touch with local officials to offer condolences and state support as needed. As we get more information it is critical that we come together to do everything in our power to prevent these incidents from happening and keep guns out of our schools," North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper echoed in a statement.