The personality of 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen brightened the hallways of Butler High School, his classmates say. He loved to dance and was a bit of a class clown, but his friends also say he was thinking about college and his future.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said Monday that the shooting may have been related to bullying. Matthews Police Capt. Stason Tyrrell refused to say who was bullying whom at a news conference Monday.
Since McKeithen died, his family and friends have insisted he wasn’t a bully.
If the school did know there was a conflict between two students, school officials should have intervened, said McKeithen’s father, who is also named Bobby McKeithen.
On Monday morning, McKeithen headed to school like he was supposed to, his mother Ashley Mewborn said during a news conference Tuesday.
Around the time classes started, McKeithen was shot in a school hallway. He died at the hospital, and another 16-year-old Butler student, Jatwan Craig Cuffie, has been charged with murder.
“I don’t feel safe about the school system,” Mewborn said. “I’m worried about my other kids now.”
Mewborn told reporters McKeithen was a devoted brother with “the biggest heart.” In a statement, his family firmly disputed the idea that he was a bully.
Mewborn said she wants CMS officials to do “whatever (they) have to do” to keep students safe.
“A child shouldn’t have been able to walk in with a gun and be able to shoot my baby in his — just shoot him in his side and kill him,” she said. “That should never happen.”
Hundreds of people gathered at Butler’s flagpole Monday night for a vigil in McKeithen’s honor. They carried candles, released dozens of blue and white balloons and lay flowers near a sign that read “Long Live Bobby.” That slogan, and the abbreviated hashtag #LLB, has been popular on social media since the shooting.
McKeithen’s friends told the Observer that he was laidback and goofy.
“He was ... he was like a class clown,” junior Anna O’Connell said. “He was really, like, goofy, and he had relationships with his teachers ... It wasn’t like he was disrespectful.
Sophomore Jourdan Perry said when she told McKeithen she was thinking about not going to college, McKeithen was clear about his own plans.
“I know, most definitely, he wanted to go to college,” Perry said. “He told me he was going to college.”
McKeithen played basketball, his friends said, although he wasn’t on the Butler team. He would dance in the school hallway to music on his headphones, sophomore Aaliyah Griffin said.
“He listened to Lil Uzi a lot, and then him and his brother, they did this dance,” Griffin said. “They looked just alike when they did it ... (it) was just so cute.”
McKeithen was close to his siblings, especially his 2-year-old sister, according to his mom and his friends. His older brother and several classmates said he was a good friend.
“He was a really good person,” sophomore Tiana Scrofani said. “Even if you stopped talking to him for a little while, he was still always there and always came back to you to make sure you were OK.”
“And it was just like, he never like gave up on you or your friendship with him, no matter if things got rough. So that was always good about him, that he never left you.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started to cover McKeithen’s burial expenses. As of Tuesday night, it had raised $6,948 of its $15,000 goal.
Jane Wester: 704-358-5128, @janewester