North Carolina

Video shows late-night off-campus fight that may have led to Butler High shooting

A video has surfaced on social media that is believed to include both the 16-year-old suspect in the Butler High School shooting and his alleged victim, amid an off-campus fight that may have led to Monday morning’s deadly violence at the school.

The 10-second clip, posted as part of an Instagram “story,” opens with two people in white tank tops scuffling in a parking lot lit by street lamps. Another taller person, wearing a black sweatshirt, then throws a punch that knocks one of the others to the ground.

According to attorney Michael Greene, the teen who was knocked down is his client, Jatwan Craig Cuffie, the Butler freshman who was arrested and charged with first-degree murder Monday in the shooting death of Bobby McKeithen, another 16-year-old Butler student.

In the video, the other person in white then kicks and stomps on Cuffie, who is curled up and trying to protect his head with his arms. Two other people can be seen standing nearby.

One of them — dressed in blue and black, with light pants — is shown pacing around the perimeter of the fight; McKeithen’s family confirmed Wednesday afternoon that person is McKeithen, according to Mario Black, who is acting as a spokesperson for the family.

At no point does McKeithen appear to engage in the fight, nor does he do anything to break it up.

Halfway through the clip, a fifth person is seen running into the frame and engages in a scuffle with the other bystander as Cuffie rises to his feet. There is a brief melee, then the person who was seen kicking and stomping briefly chases after Cuffie before the two prepare to square off again. The video then ends.

The fight depicted in the video closely matches the description of a Friday fight detailed in a sworn statement that Cuffie gave to Matthews police after his arrest in connection with Monday’s fatal shooting.

(The Observer learned of the existence of the video after interviewing several Butler students. A student shared a copy with the Observer on Tuesday afternoon. It’s unclear where the video originated.)

In his Monday statement, Cuffie told police he’d brought the gun to school because he had been involved in a fight Friday night in the parking lot of the Harris Teeter supermarket at 5706 Wyalong Drive, at the intersection of Idlewild and Margaret Wallace roads near the Charlotte-Mint Hill line.

In his statement to police, Cuffie referred to several people who were involved in the fight Friday by their first names. He also mentioned “Bobby” — believed to be the victim, McKeithen — but did not name him among the people who were fighting. Cuffie told police Bobby “saw everything.”

Though this is not clear in the video, Cuffie told police that one of the people he was fighting against pulled out a knife. Cuffie told police that he and his friend ran away when the knife came out.

Later that weekend, Cuffie told police, a friend told Cuffie that one of the people who fought against him Friday was planning to start another fight with Cuffie at school. So, Monday morning before school, Cuffie “went to the woods to get his gun for protection” but “was praying that they wouldn’t mess with him,” according to his statement.

(Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said Monday that the incident “began with bullying that escalated out of control.” The family of the victim has firmly said McKeithen was not a bully: “We want everyone to know that the stories and rumors that you have heard about Bobby being a bully are not true.”)

Cuffie told police that he was standing in the hallway before the start of school Monday when McKeithen walked up and punched him in the face. According to his statement, Cuffie put his arm up to protect himself, grabbed the gun from his jacket pocket and fired one shot that struck McKeithen.

If convicted, Cuffie faces life in prison without parole.