Abel Cedeno, the 18-year-old accused of fatally stabbing his classmate Matthew McCree at their Bronx high school Wednesday, endured years of abuse over his “perceived sexual orientation” and ethnicity, a representative for his family said at his arraignment.
“The kids were calling him a f—t, calling him a s—c,” Savannah Hornbeck said Thursday, according to the New York Daily News. “After it had been reported numerous times and there was no reaction from the school, Abel felt [there was] no other way out.”
After what police described as a two-week-long argument between Cedeno, McCree, 15, and Ariane Laboy, 16, things escalated Wednesday morning in a fifth-floor classroom at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation in East Tremont.
More than a dozen other students were in the classroom at the time of the stabbing, which occurred after McCree and Laboy were throwing broken pencils at Cedeno’s head, police said.
Cedeno struck both McCree and Laboy with a 3-inch, spring-action switchblade knife, then walked out into the hallway, where a counselor confiscated the weapon, NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. Cedeno then took himself to the assistant principal’s office, where police were called, and he was arrested.
McCree and Laboy were taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where McCree was pronounced dead and where Laboy remains in critical but stable condition.
“The defendant admits to purchasing a [switchblade] knife two weeks before online and stabbing two people,” Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko said. “He’s admitting stabbing these people with a knife he ordered.”
Iris Couvertier, a friend of the Cedeno family, told the Daily News she spoke with the teen after his arrest.
“Those two kids in the class, they hit him,” she said. “He said that they hit him in the face. He said it’s because he’s gay or bisexual.”
McCree’s stepfather, Kyle Victor, denied allegations that his stepson was a bully.
“He was very loving,” Victor told the New York Post. “He was in no way bad. … They’re making it look like Matthew did not like gay people. That’s wrong, too.”
Hornbeck said that Cedeno reported the alleged bullying to school officials and that he would often come home in tears. Citing student privacy laws, Department of Education officials could not confirm if Cedeno did indeed file such a report.
In the wake of the stabbing, the first slaying inside a city school in nearly 25 years, authorities have installed two body scanners and two X-ray machines at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. The school did not have metal detectors before the incident because a prior review deemed that they were not necessary, officials said.
Cedeno has been placed on suicide watch and is being held without bail. He has been charged with one count each of murder, manslaughter and attempted manslaughter and two counts each of attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
The effects of teen bullying
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 10 percent of U.S. children and teens are victims of frequent bullying by peers. Adolescents who are bullied are at risk for developing a variety of psychological symptoms including depression and anxiety that last well into adulthood, according to the NIH.
A 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey of LGBTQ students found that 10 percent were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, 34 percent were bullied on school property, and 28 percent were bullied electronically.