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Bronx school stabbing victims threw pencils at suspect right before attack, NYPD says

Abel Cedeno, left, stabbed his classmates, Matthew McCree,

Abel Cedeno, left, stabbed his classmates, Matthew McCree, right, and Ariane Laboy at a Bronx school on Wednesday morning, Sept. 27, 2017, police said. Photo Credit: New York Daily News / Andrew Savulich; Facebook

The Bronx teen charged with fatally stabbing a high school classmate and seriously wounding another told cops he acted after pencils were thrown at him during history class, a top police official said Thursday.

Abel Cedeno, 18, was ordered held without bail Thursday on second-degree murder, manslaughter and other charges stemming from a dispute at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation that took the life of Matthew McCree, 15, and critically injured Ariane Laboy, 16.

Laboy underwent surgery on Wednesday and remained hospitalized Thursday in stable condition, police said.

A family friend of McCree, Jonathan Wilson, 24, said the teen loved music, playing basketball and talking to girls. His favorite team was the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James.

"He bought a hoop for himself and for the kids," Wilson said. "It's outrageous. You can't send your own kids to school nowadays and feel safe."

Christopher Eason, another family friend, said McCree left behind a toddler sister, Kayla, and a 17-year-old brother, Sheldon.

"She still doesn't understand he's gone," he said about Kayla.

McCree would have turned 16 on Dec. 22. "We're mourning," Eason added.

Cedeno admitted to purchasing the switchblade knife used in the stabbings and to using it against the victims, Bronx Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko told Criminal Court Judge Patsy Gouldborne during his arraignment. Cedeno entered a not guilty plea through his attorney with the Legal Aid Society. He’s due back in court on Oct. 3.

The Legal Aid Society said Cedeno was bullied at the school.

"We are currently meeting with our client and his family and reviewing the facts and circumstances of this case, including the long history of bullying and intimidation Abel has endured," the Legal Aid Society said in a statement.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said on Thursday that Cedeno gave investigators a lengthy statement and claimed that while he had suffered two weeks of harassment at the school, his only dispute with McCree and Laboy occurred Wednesday in class.

“That was the first time – those two individuals – he had a problem with,” Boyce said. “He said he was being harassed. He didn’t further describe other children in other classes he was having problems with.”

Boyce said Cedeno’s mother was stranded in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, but that his older brother was talking to police in the city.

The stabbing at the school on Mohegan Avenue in West Farms, which is part of a shared campus for grades pre-kindergarten through high school, raised questions about the way the city provides metal detectors for schools. The building didn’t have devices but they were installed Wednesday night.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina visited the school Thursday morning. Only 33 percent of students enrolled there attended class Thursday, according to the Department of Education.

Senior Felton Barker, 17, was one of the few who did show up, as did classmate Dwhy Valentin, also 17.

“It was just the two of us,” Barker said. "The rest of the class didn‘t come.”

Ninth-grader Luis Castellano, 14, was across from the classroom where the stabbing took place Wednesday. On Thursday, he said he was transferred to a Catholic school.

"When the teachers saw the severity of the situation they put a ... paper over the window," he said outside of a memorial for McCree in the Bronx. "We just heard screaming, people falling on the floor, people saying help. It was very traumatizing."

After his mom picked him up from school early on Wednesday, Castellano said his parents asked if he wanted to transfer.

"Not only was my family scared, but I was scared. I think I made the right decision," he said.

In response to the stabbing, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said on Thursday police would work with the education department to evaluate school security throughout the city.

McCree’s death was the first homicide in a city school since 1993, when another 15-year-old was stabbed inside a Manhattan junior high school over a dispute about sunglasses, police said.

Chief Brian Conroy, who heads the NYPD school safety bureau, said officials saw no reason why detectors were needed at the Bronx school prior to the stabbings. Officials said fewer than 80 schools in the city have metal detectors.

“We have the ability to remove scanning … we also have ability to take scanning equipment to go to any school for a day where it is thought there might be a problem,” Conroy explained.

During the 2016-2017 school year, 2,130 weapons, including 1,176 knives, were discovered at public schools by police or school security, NYPD records show – an increase of 3.2 percent compared with the 2015-2016 school year.

With Maria Alvarez, Alison Fox and Lauren Cook

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