Newport News, Va., shooting: Teacher allegedly shot by school officials, 6-year-old child had a gun, lawyer says


Abby Zwerner, the teacher who was allegedly shot by a 6-year-old child at an elementary school in Newport News, Va., warned school administrators on the day of the shooting that the child had a gun, according to his lawyer.

“Abby and these other teachers at Richneck Elementary School tried to do the right thing on January 6,” attorney Diane Toscano said at a press conference Wednesday, alleging that administrators had been warned three times within hours that “the boy had a gun on him at school and was threatening people.

“But the administration couldn’t be bothered,” Toscano said, telling reporters she intended to file a lawsuit on Zwerner’s behalf.

“This tragedy could have been entirely avoided if the school administrators responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when they became aware of an impending danger,” Toscano said. “But instead they didn’t act and Abby was shot.”

CNN has reached out to the school district to comment on Toscano’s claims, which come the same day the Newport News School Board plans to vote on whether to oust the district superintendent after the shooting nearly three weeks ago.

A 6-year-old boy was taken into custody on January 6 after bringing the gun legally purchased by his mother to school in his backpack and shooting dead his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, police said at the time.

Zwerner, 25, was initially in critical condition and later stabilized before being released from hospital after a bullet passed through her hand and into her chest inside her classroom. Police said the shooting was intentional.

Since the shooting, the school board has held several meetings, including a stormy one last week where members faced backlash from parents. The school board also met in a closed-door discussion on Tuesday, after which it decided to hold a special meeting on Wednesday.

Members are is expected to discuss — and likely approve — at Wednesday’s meeting a separation agreement and severance package with Superintendent George Parker III, according to the agenda posted on the school board’s website.

Board members are also considering discussing the appointment of an interim superintendent.

CNN has reached out to Parker’s office for comment.

The school will reopen Jan. 30, nearly a month after the shooting, school officials confirmed to CNN in an email earlier this week.

At the intense board meeting with parents on January 17, emotions ran high as frustrated parents spoke of the fear and anxiety their children have endured since gun violence. At least one parent has called for the superintendent position to be re-evaluated.

“Why did it take negative national attention before we took this seriously and reevaluated it?” asked the relative. “I think it’s time for the citizens and parents of Newport News who did not elect you to reevaluate your services as our, our superintendent.”

The shooting came as America continues to grapple with the pervasive problem of gun violence that pervades many public spaces across the country.

The shooting at Richneck Elementary was the first of 2023 at an American school, according to a CNN analysis. In 2022, there were 60 K-12 school shootings, according to CNN’s analysis.

Yet school shootings by such a young suspect are very rare.

There have been three other cases in which the suspect was just 6 years old: in 2000, 2011 and 2021, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, which has been tracking shootings in American schools since 1970.

The elementary school shooting happened after an altercation between the teacher and the student, who pointed the gun at the teacher and fired a single bullet, the Newport News police chief said. , Steve Drew.

“There was no physical struggle or fight,” Drew said at the time, adding that no other students were involved.

The boy was remanded in custody and was assessed at a local hospital.

Almost two weeks after the shooting, the boy’s family released their first statement, praising the teacher.

“Our hearts go out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her recovery following such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children of the school,” the family said. in the statement released by attorney James Ellenson.

The family pointed out that their son had a disability and was receiving care at school.

“Our son has an acute disability and was under a care plan at school which included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day,” the family statement reads. .

The family also said the gun allegedly used was secured prior to the shooting. They said a family member usually went to class with him, but not the week of the shooting.

“We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the family said.

Meanwhile, the police chief said the boy’s mother could possibly face charges in the shooting.

“And at the end of the day when all of this is compiled and the facts and what the law supports, the Commonwealth solicitor will make the decision if there are any charges to come…against the parents,” said Drew.

Under Virginia law, it is an offense for an adult to leave a firearm loaded and unsecured in such a way that it could endanger a child under 14. It is prohibited for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.

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