Peers: Stabbing suspect was picked on, different from others

In this photo provided by the New York Police Department, a switchblade knife rests on a paper towel in New York, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Police say a high school student suddenly attacked two classmates with the knife during class at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation on Wednesday. (New York Police via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — The student accused of stabbing a classmate to death and seriously injuring another during history class was different from other guys and had been picked on since the school year started, fellow students and police said.

But the boys 18-year-old Abel Cedeno is accused of attacking at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife hadn’t bothered him before, not until Wednesday morning’s third-period history class, when they started tossing broken bits of pencils and paper at his head, authorities said.

Cedeno snapped, they said. He excused himself to go to the bathroom, and when he came back, he pulled out a switchblade and started fighting and slashing at them, police said. Fifteen-year-old Mathew McCree was killed and a 16-year-old was seriously wounded.

“Everybody just stood back. A few of them were holding Matthew. A few of them were holding towels on the wound,” witness Jomarlyn Colon, 16, told the Daily News. “All the kids were crying and screaming.”

While school safety agents raced to the room and the teachers and students tried to stop the bleeding, a counselor confronted Cedeno in the hallway and he handed over the blade, police said.

Cedeno was charged Thursday with murder and weapon possession. The Legal Aid Society, which was representing him, said its lawyers were talking with Cedeno and his family, “reviewing the facts and circumstances of this case including the long history of bullying and intimidation Abel has endured.”

Cedeno told police that he bought the switchblade online for protection and had been harassed at least since the school year began. But he didn’t specify why, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said Thursday.

But two family friends who spoke to the Daily News at Cedeno’s arraignment said he had been bullied with gay slurs.

“Those two kids in the class, they hit him,” said Iris Courvertier, who said she spoke with Cedeno after his arrest. “He said that they hit him in the face. He said it’s because he’s gay or bisexual.”

Another family friend, Savannah Hornbeck, said Cedeno was taunted with homophobic slurs. “After it had been reported numerous times and there was no reaction from the school, Abel felt there was no other way out,” Hornbeck said.

McCree’s stepfather, Kyle Victor, said at Cedeno’s arraignment that McCree was “a good kid, very smart, very loving,” the Daily News reported.

Victor said his stepson wasn’t a bully.

“They’re making it look like Matthew did not like gay people,” Victor said, according to the New York Post. “That’s wrong, too.”

On his Instagram page, Cedeno posted pictures and videos of himself vamping with flowers in his hair, strutting down a street and singing along with female rappers.

Some of Cedeno’s fellow students also said he was a frequent target of bullies.

Yanique Heatley, 18, told reporters that Cedeno was “different from the other guys.”

“He likes Nicki Minaj, stuff from H&M. He likes Kylie Jenner,” she said.

Police said Cedeno had not gone to school officials before with any complaints of harassment.

New York City schools have had anti-bullying campaigns in place for years, and school officials say instances of bullying or harassment are dealt with firmly.

It was the first homicide inside a New York City school since 1993, when a 15-year-old student stabbed a classmate to death at a junior high school in Manhattan. That killing came during a stretch that saw four students killed in public schools in 12 months — violence that prompted schools to start installing metal detectors.

The Bronx school was open Thursday. The mayor and schools chancellor were there, and grief counselors were on site. The students were scanned for weapons Thursday, but the building didn’t have metal detectors — police said there hadn’t been a need for them.

“After yesterday’s incident, of course we’re going to evaluate what goes on throughout the school system,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said. “Our goal, of course, is to keep the children as safe as possible.”

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Associated Press writer Karen Matthews contributed to this report.