NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Dozens of mourners attended a dawn funeral service Saturday to grieve a 15-year-old student stabbed to death in a Bronx classroom.
It was the first killing in New York City school in over 20 years.
Matthew McCree, 15, was fatally stabbed late last month at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. Alleged assailant Abel Cedeno, 18, faces multiple charges including murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, attempted manslaughter, assault and criminal possession of a weapon.
Another classmate identified as 16-year-old Ariane Laboy, who tried to intervene, was critically wounded.
On Saturday, tearful family members remembered the boy as an “awesome kid” as classmates looked over the casket where McCree lay in a white suit. An orange piece of artwork in the shape of an oversized basketball that featured the letters “MM” stood nearby.
“That was his dream, to play basketball. And he wanted to go to Fordham University. He never got that opportunity either,” said his grandmother, Opal Smith.
A wake Friday night was attended by over 100 family members, classmates and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
McCree’s mother said that she was “living day by day.”
“He was my baby. Now he is gone,” Louna Dennis, 34, told the Daily News.
Police said Cedeno admitted to buying the knife used in the stabbing on Amazon after weeks of homophobic bullying at school, but said neither teen who was stabbed had any prior issues with Cedeno.
But police said McCree and his friend, Ariane Laboy, 16, had been throwing broken bits of pencils and paper at Cedeno’s head during history class Sept. 27. Authorities said Cedeno excused himself to go to the bathroom, and returned with the switchblade knife which he plunged into McCree’s chest and back.
But McCree’s mother said the bullying story “surprised” her. “I’d like to know where that came from. My son had no problems at school.”
This was echoed by McCree’s classmates.
“Matthew would never bully a gay person; he knew better than that,” Hensehk Bernardez, 16, told The New York Times.
It was the first homicide inside a New York City school since 1993, when a spate of schoolyard killings prompted schools to install metal detectors. The West Farms, Bronx school where McCree was killed did not have metal detectors.
“It’s rough, but we’ll get through it. And what can I say, Matthew’s in a better place,” his aunt told mourners at the funeral. McCree’s body was driven past his high school before being taken to Canarsie Cemetery for burial.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)