McKeithen died at a nearby hospital shortly after the shot was fired. A few hours later, once classes resumed, 16-year-old first-year Jatwan Craig Cuffie was charged with the first-degree murder of his classmate.
Ratliff-Williams said he first heard the news from his mom about an hour after it took place, just before a 90-minute lockdown at his alma mater ended. He said he was shocked and that he didn't believe what she was telling him.
"My mom told me that the tragedy happened at my school and I kind of didn’t believe her," Ratliff-Williams said. "I was like, ‘At my school? In my area?'"
His immediate reaction was to text his cousins, who he said still attend the school and were close friends with the victim, to check on them. He still knows plenty of people who are connected to the school and expressed regret that anyone would have to live through that experience, let alone his hometown.
“No parents should have to worry about sending their kid off to school and never seeing them again," Ratliff-Williams said. "I definitely have prayed about it and I definitely send my condolences to that family. It’s a sad incident and it should happen at no time in any scenario. It’s just a sad situation.”
During his time at Butler, Ratliff-Williams became the starting quarterback for the Bulldogs, while also splitting some time at wideout. It was at that school where he made a name for himself in athletics, eventually committing to UNC over Clemson and Mississippi State.
Because he's in Chapel Hill for classes and preparing for the Homecoming football game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Ratliff-Williams said it has been hard to be away from his hometown in its time of need. The community held a vigil Monday night to honor the memory of McKeithen and help the community come to grips with what happened, but Ratliff-Williams could not attend.
Although he has a busy schedule with football season still underway, Ratliff-Williams said he plans to continue reaching out to those close to him and make time in the next several weeks to go home.
On Tuesday, he checked in with his old football coach, Brian Hales, to see how things are going a day after the aftermath in his own stomping grounds
"To have that happen not only in your backyard, but at the school you attended," Ratliff-Williams said. "It was just crazy."
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