A Bronx teenager who is accused of fatally stabbing a classmate in late-September was indicted Tuesday on a first-degree manslaughter charge, amid dueling demonstrations taking outside the courthouse.
Abel Cedeno, 18, who testified before a grand jury, had faced a murder charge, but that was lowered. He is facing charges that include murder for the death of 15-year-old Matthew McCree.
Cedeno still faces an attempted murder charge related to the stabbing of a second student. He previously pleaded not guilty. The grand jury is still considering that charge.
The teenager told police that he was being bullied, and that it had been going on since the start of the school year. Cedeno's lawyer said the bullying was in part because of his sexual orientation.
Officials said the stabbing occurred during a class at the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation.
Protesters gathered outside court Tuesday and said the school needs to do more to protect gay and transgender students.
As Cedeno was led from the courtroom, his family shouted words of support.
"I see my son — confidence, a lot of confidence, and I know that my son is coming home soon," said Luz Hernandez, Cedeno's mother.
McCree's mother, Louna Dennis, was also at the Bronx courthouse but did not see Cedeno. She insists her son was no bully.
"My son never had words with this boy, the accused killer, before he took my son's life," Dennis said.
Dueling demonstrations took place outside the courthouse. The victim's family marched and chanted, while members of the LGBT community cried out about harassment.
"He was being bullied!" one Cedeno supporters told members at the media at the demonstration.
The two sides both said, however, that the school did not do enough to stop one boy from being bullied and another from being killed.
"The school definitely failed him," Cedeno's sister Vanessa Cruz said about her brother. "It would always be, 'Ignore it, be the better person, be the bigger person.' You don't ignore bullying, because then stuff like this happens."
"The Department of Education failed to have metal detectors!" Sanford Rubenstein, the attorney for McCree's family, said at press conference. "The teachers, as defense lawyer said, stood idly by, and there were complaints about his being bullied by other students!"
Cedeno has entered a not guilty plea. A judge set his bail for $500,000. His next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 15.