Crime & Courts

CMS to consider using metal detectors after loaded gun is found at Hopewell High

Butler High students come together for vigil after a student was shot and killed in school

A vigil was held at Butler High School in memory of 16-year-old sophomore Bobby McKeithen who was shot and killed by a fellow student at the school earlier in the day.
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A vigil was held at Butler High School in memory of 16-year-old sophomore Bobby McKeithen who was shot and killed by a fellow student at the school earlier in the day.

After school police officers seized a loaded gun from a student at Hopewell High on Wednesday, Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said it’s time for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to look at using metal detectors and/or bag searches to prevent guns from getting into schools.

“We just can’t seem as a community to get our hearts and minds around keeping guns out of the hands of our kids,” Wilcox said at Wednesday’s school board meeting. He said he’ll talk with his top staff first thing Thursday morning about “some things that we perhaps avoided before because we were concerned about how the schools would feel.”

No one was injured at Hopewell, and Wilcox said in an interview with the Observer that a student told adults about the gun brought to school by a classmate. But it was the third gun found at a CMS high school in less than two weeks, starting with a fatal shooting at Butler High on Oct. 29.

WSOC-TV identified the student as 17-year-old Michael Spates.

Michael Spates.jpg
Police arrested 17-year-old Michael Spates on a charge of having a loaded gun at Hopewell High School in Huntersville, NC, on Wednesday. Mecklenburg County jail

Huntersville police arrested Spates at about 12:40 p.m. on a charge of having a gun on educational property, a felony, Mecklenburg County jail records show. Police took Spates before a magistrate, who ordered the teen jailed on $10,000 bail, according to jail records.

CMS has been working on new strategies to protect students from gunfire since the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year. But Wilcox had resisted searching students and using metal detectors, partly because of the complexity of doing it on large, open campuses and partly because he said it detracts from an atmosphere that focuses on learning.

But the past two weeks have been grim ones for CMS.

Bobby McKeithen, a 16-year-old sophomore at Butler High School, was fatally shot in a hallway at the school before classes began Oct. 29. Jatwan Cuffie, a 16-year-old Butler freshman, was charged with murder.

The day after McKeithen was shot, a Garinger High student was caught with a gun at school. Del’Marcus Walker, 16, was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering a gun serial number, according to the CMPD release.

Wilcox told the Observer on Wednesday that it’s unusual to have three guns at school in less than two weeks, but CMS does not believe the Butler, Garinger and Hopewell incidents are connected.

At the board meeting, Wilcox said he’s going to look at “emergent technologies” for school security. After the meeting he told the Observer that the measures he’s considering include metal detectors and bag searches. He said he’ll talk to his staff and go public with new recommendations after a Nov. 13 principals’ meeting.

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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