In late September, 18-year-old student named Abel Cedeno (pictured above) fatally stabbed 15-year-old classmate Matthew McCree and slashed 16-year-old Ariane Laboy. Labou survived and Cedeno was later arrested, but Cedeno has finally gotten a chance to tell his version of events, just as the court has reduced his criminal charge from second-degree murder to manslaughter.
Initial reports said that at the time of the attack, McCree and Laboy had been throwing bits of broken pencil at the back of Cedeno’s head. After speaking to Cedeno at Rikers Island, the prison where he’s being held until his trial, Gay City News reports that Cedeno is claiming self-defense and was defending himself from McCree’s punches.
According to Cedeno, McCree had been throwing bits of broken pencil and pen caps at a tender part of his neck where Cedeno had just tattooed his mother’s name. Cedeno says that he picked up his book bag to leave the classroom, but turned around and screamed, “Who is throwing all that stuff at me?”
At this point, Cedeno says, McCree confronted him, saying, “Hey, it was me. What’s good?” (Slang for, “What are you going to do about it?”)
Cedeno claims that two teachers watched and did nothing, so he pulled out his knife, hopeful it would make McCree back off. However, McCree hit Cedeno in the face twice and Cedeno slashed out. He says he didn’t even realized that he had killed McCree or slashed Laboy until school security forces started dragging him away.
“I was trying to get [McCree] off me. I was afraid for my life,” Cedeno said. “There are groups of boys in gangs and [McCree and Laboy] hung around with those kids who carry knives and guns. Even the teachers are afraid of these students.”
Cedeno says he worried that his attack also came from fear that McCree and Laboy’s gang contacts might harm his family. Cedeno also worries that the many witnesses to the stabbing may not testify for fear of gang retaliation.
Defenders of Abel Cedeno say that the fault mostly lies with the school for not doing more to address its bullying problem. Cedeno’s family members say that school officials didn’t respond to reports of Cedeno being bullied and that Cedeno missed so much school because of bullying last year that he had to repeat his senior year.
McCree’s family refutes the claim that McCree was ever violent or affiliated with a gang, though the Cedeno family reports receiving death threats since McCree’s murder. Friends and family members affiliated with both McCree and Cedeno protested at the court house during a recent hearing. After the hearing, Cedeno had his criminal charge reduced from second-degree murder to manslaughter.
Abel Cedeno is being represented by Christopher R. Lynn, a man who once served as the counsel for the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights.