‘I just snapped’

BUL­LIED STU­DENT SAYS HE DIDN’T MEAN TO KILL CLASS­MATE

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY ELLEN MOYNIHAN, BEN CHAP­MAN and LARRY McSHANE Abel Ce­deno (top) gave heart­felt in­ter­view to Daily News from Rik­ers Is­land on Fri­day, de­scrib­ing his life and the slay­ing of Matthew McCree (above) in his Bronx class­room Wed­nes­day. With Kerry Burke

THE AC­CUSED teen killer calls it a case of mur­der by mis­take.

Jailed homi­cide sus­pect Abel Ce­deno claims he brought a twoweek old switch­blade to school strictly for self-de­fense, with no thought of carv­ing up two class­mates.

“I guess I just snapped,” Ce­deno told the Daily News in a Rik­ers Is­land in­ter­view. “I didn’t mean to kill him. I wanted to scare him.”

The bi­sex­ual Bronx teen ac­cused of fa­tally gut­ting class­mate Matthew McCree, 15, in­sisted Fri­day that he never in­tended to plunge the ser­rated knife into his un­armed vic­tim’s torso.

McCree’s best friend, 16-yearold Ari­ane Laboy, was stabbed in the chest Wed­nes­day morn­ing dur­ing a his­tory class that turned into a blood­bath be­fore hor­ri­fied stu­dents and fac­ulty.

Laboy re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized two days af­ter the at­tack.

Ce­deno, speak­ing at the jail where he was held with­out bail and un­der a suicide watch, in­sisted he was the vic­tim of anti-gay bul­ly­ing long be­fore his an­gry ex­plo­sion in­side the East Tre­mont high school.

“They bully me be­cause I’m dif­fer­ent,” said Ce­deno, 18, who was charged with mur­der and at­tempted mur­der in the Bronx class­room melee. “I’m not like the other guys. My voice is higher.”

The soft-spo­ken sus­pect chat­ted with a re­porter in an emo­tion­less tone about the ver­bal and oc­ca­sion­ally phys­i­cal abuse in­flicted on him since mid­dle school over his sex­u­al­ity.

Fel­low stu­dents called him a “f----t,” while an­grier class­mates slammed Ce­deno into hall­way lock­ers, he said.

Ce­deno, who said he iden­ti­fies as bi­sex­ual, wore a gray jump­suit as he an­swered ques­tions about the first slay­ing in­side a city school since 1993.

At one point, he re­moved his glasses and wiped at his eyes.

The ac­cused killer said he was un­sure if the stab­bing re­ally hap­pened af­ter he walked into the school prin­ci­pal’s of­fice and sur­ren­dered the knife.

“I was hav­ing a panic at­tack,” he said.

Ce­deno, who bought the switch­blade on­line about two weeks prior to the at­tack, in­sisted that he made the pur­chase “to pro­tect my­self.”

He was ar­rested with­out in­ci­dent af­ter stab­bing McCree and Laboy at the Ur­ban As­sem­bly School for Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion, cops said.

On Fri­day, about half the stu­dent body stayed home rather than re­turn to the scene of the crime.

Ce­deno re­counted a some­what root­less life, bounc­ing be­tween homes and a shel­ter in Queens and the Bronx and at­tend­ing at least seven dif­fer­ent schools over the years.

This was his fifth year at the wildlife-fo­cused “Zoo School,” where he was re­peat­ing the 12th grade.

“Abel felt an iso­la­tion be­cause all his clos­est friends had al­ready grad­u­ated,” said a school math teacher Fri­day. “He was com­mit­ted to the per­form­ing arts. Abel wanted to be an ac­tor.”

Though classes only started on Sept. 7, Ce­deno es­ti­mated he had al­ready missed 10 days. His fa­ther is bat­tling lung can­cer, and his mom is trapped in Puerto Rico af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria.

Fam­ily friends claim Ce­deno was the tar­get of eth­nic and anti­gay slurs since the school year be­gan three weeks ago. But po­lice said nei­ther of the youths stabbed Wed­nes­day had any prior beef with Ce­deno.

“I will hold their mem­ory in my heart,” Ce­deno said of McCree, who died shortly af­ter the stab­bing, and Laboy, who re­mained hos­pi­tal­ized.

Ce­deno also ac­knowl­edged ig­nor­ing fam­ily mem­bers and other sup­port­ers who turned out for his Thurs­day ar­raign­ment in Bronx Crim­i­nal Court.

“I didn’t turn around to look at the peo­ple,” he said. “I feel like a fail­ure.”

Mayor de Bla­sio and the City Coun­cil an­nounced plans for Mon­day hear­ings on the bul­ly­ing is­sue.

Sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der stu­dents are twice as likely to be bul­lied in city schools as het­ero­sex­ual kids.

The 2015 sur­vey shows 24% of LGBTQ stu­dents were bul­lied on school prop­erty, com­pared with 13% of straight youth.

Roughly half of LGBTQ stu­dents had ex­pe­ri­enced de­pres­sion, com­pared to about a quar­ter of their straight peers, the study in­di­cated.

And de­spite Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment moves to sup­port LGBTQ stu­dents, in­clud­ing the hir­ing of a pub­lic li­ai­son, more needs to be done, ac­cord­ing to crit­ics.

“Prin­ci­pals and teach­ers still feel un­sup­ported in their ef­forts to com­bat bul­ly­ing in their schools, es­pe­cially as it re­lates to LGBT is­sues,” said Coun­cil­man Daniel Dromm, head of its ed­u­ca­tion com­mit­tee.

Abel Ce­deno, in­ter­viewed at Rik­ers Is­land Fri­day, tries to ex­plain his vi­cious at­tack.

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