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Thrown pencils preceded Bronx fatal school stabbing, NYPD says

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, right, answers

NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce, right, answers questions about Wednesday's fatal school stabbing at a news conference at One Police Plaza on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The Bronx teen who is charged with stabbing to death a high school classmate and seriously wounding another told cops he acted after pencils were thrown at him during a 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 United Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation that took the life of Matthew McCree, 15, and critically injured Ariane Laboy, 16, who remained hospitalized in stable condition.

Bronx Assistant District Attorney Nancy Borko told Criminal Court Judge Patsy Gouldborne during Cedeno’s arraignment that the teenager admitted purchasing the switchblade knife used in the stabbings and that he used it against the victims. Cedeno entered a not guilty plea through his Legal Aid attorney. Cedeno is due back in court on October 3.

Outside court, Cedeno family friend Savannah Hornback told NY1 that “this was an extreme case of bullying…there is more to this story than meets the eye.”

In a briefing with reporters Thursday, NYPD chief of detectives Robert Boyce said 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 the two stabbing victims occurred Wednesday in class.

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

Asked by a reporter if Cedeno’s sexual orientation had been at the root of the previous bullying, Boyce said the teenager had not mentioned it to police.

Boyce said Cedeno’s mother was stranded in hurricane wracked Puerto Rico but that his older brother had been talking to police here.

The stabbing at the United Assembly school, which is part of a shared campus for grades pre-k through high school at 2024 Mohegan Avenue in the West Farms Section, raised questions about how the city provides metal detectors for schools.

The building at Mohegan Avenue didn’t have such devices but got them overnight. Mayor Bill de Blasio and School Chancellor Carmen Farina visited Thursday. According to the Department of Education only 33 percent of students enrolled at the school attended class Thursday.

Many of the 1,100 students appeared to stay away from the school Thursday. Student Felton Barker, 17, a senior, did show up, as did classmate Dwhy Valentin also 17. But Barker said he wasn’t sure he would show up for class Friday.

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

Thursday, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill said police and the Department of Education were going to evaluate school security throughout the city.

The killing of McCree was the first homicide in a city school since 1993 when another 15 year-old was stabbed in a Manhattan junior high school in what police said was a dispute over sunglasses.

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

“We have the ability to remove scanning, lower the level, 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,” noted Conroy.

NYPD records show that in the last school year cops and school security around the city discovered 2,130 weapons, including 1,176 knifes, at public schools. That was an increase of 3.2 percent over the prior year.

— With Maria Alvarez

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