NEW YORK — A high school student who hadn’t been getting along with two classmates suddenly attacked them with a switchblade during history class Wednesday, killing one boy and gravely wounding another, police said.
Fifteen to 20 students witnessed the attack. After leaving the classroom, 18-year-old Abel Cedeno handed the bloodied knife to a school counselor he met in the hall, then went to an assistant principal’s office and quietly waited for authorities to arrive, police said.
The dead student, identified as Matthew McCree, 15, was stabbed in the chest. A 16-year-old was stabbed in the chest and side and was hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
Cedeno was arrested on charges of murder, manslaughter, attempted murder, attempted manslaughter, assault and criminal possession of a weapon. Information on his lawyer wasn’t immediately available.
The stabbing happened about 15 minutes into third period at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, a middle and high school in the Bronx that shares a building with an elementary school.
Students described tense moments huddled in closets and in classrooms while the school was locked down, wondering what was happening.
“The guidance counselor couldn’t even keep herself calm,” said eighth-grader Abbie Mincey. The counselor told them: “I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.”
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.
Authorities were looking into whether Cedeno had been bullied, but it appeared his dispute with the victims had been going on for about two weeks, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said. They had been tossing paper at one another shortly before the stabbing, authorities said.
Angry parents, some in tears, gathered outside the school demanding they be allowed to pick up their children. Parents said they were forced to wait for hours in fear.
“I’m very upset. No one wants to send a child to school to be in danger,” said Rosalyn Valoy, who picked up her fourth-grade daughter about four hours after the stabbing.
Denise Jackson, the mother of a high school freshman, said she was terrified.
“She hasn’t been here for a month yet. I don’t know if I want to keep her here,” she said. “I just don’t know.”
The school, attended by about 1,100 students, is not one of the roughly 75 schools in New York’s million-student system that requires children to pass through metal detectors.
City officials and parents have debated for years whether the school system should be installing more metal detectors or taking them away because of the stigma of attending a school deemed unsafe enough to require a weapons check.
Deadly violence inside city school buildings is rare, though there has been violence outside, on school property. In 2014, a fight between two 14-year-old boys ended with one stabbed to death outside a Bronx school.
Chief Joanne Jaffe, head of the police department’s community affairs unit, said officers would do random security sweeps of all schools for the time being.
Giselle Estevez, the mother of 9- and 13-year-old girls, said she’d seen violence at the school before and this latest attack was the final straw. She plans to pull her daughters out of school.
“There is too much fighting, too many older boys,” she said in Spanish. “Look at my child, she is small, 9 years, and the other 13. … And they’re crying, wondering what is going on, and the school didn’t even call me.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said they were saddened by the attack and understood the fear parents would have. They planned to visit the school on Thursday to meet with staff.
“All of us are feeling this tragedy very personally,” said de Blasio, a Democrat.
Associated Press writer Bebeto Matthews contributed to this report.
This story corrects to show that it was the first homicide in a New York City school since 1993, not 1992.