Boy who shot Richneck Elem. teacher allegedly tried to choke another

Posted at 4:55 PM, Feb 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-06 17:11:05-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- A 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot and wounded his first-grade teacher constantly cursed at staff and teachers, chased students around and tried to whip them with his belt and once choked another teacher “until she couldn't breathe,” according to a legal notice filed by an attorney for the wounded teacher.

The incidents were described in a notice sent to the Newport News school district by Diane Toscano, an attorney for teacher Abby Zwerner, informing the district that Zwerner intends to sue. The notice of claim, which was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request, outlines prior behavioral issues the boy had at Richneck Elementary School and troubling interactions he had with teachers and students.

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner's cell phone and broke it, according to the claim notice. He was given a one-day suspension, but when he returned to Zwerner's class the following day, he pulled a 9mm handgun out of his pocket and shot her while she sat at a reading table, the notice says.

The notice elaborates on allegations Toscano outlined last month during a news conference.

The document says that several hours before the shooting, at least three teachers and staff members warned school administrators that they believed the boy had brought a gun to school. The boy's backpack was searched, but no gun was found, and administrators did not remove the boy from class, lock down the school or call the police.

The claim notice says that Zwerner went to former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker's office at about 11:15 a.m. that day “to advise her that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood." It also says the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergarten student and “angrily stared down” the school security officer in the lunch room.

The document describes several more warnings that Parker was allegedly given by staff about the boy having a gun. “Assistant Principal Parker should have called the police, instead she did not follow proper protocol and chose to do absolutely nothing,” the claim notice states.

Parker, who resigned from her position last month, could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for the school district said she did not know if Parker has retained an attorney.

Len Wallin, director of legal services for the school system, said in an email that it’s standard practice for the school division to forward notices of intent to sue to its insurer, which handles such litigation.

Wallin said the district’s insurer will handle decisions regarding whether it will represent Parker or not “after consultation with the school board if that is necessary.”

Pamela J. Branch, an attorney for Briana Foster Newton, the former principal of Richneck Elementary, shared the following statement on Monday afternoon:

"I am issuing a follow-up statement today in response to a misinformed report that an email referencing a student who was having behavioral challenges in Ms. Abby Zwerner's classroom on November 22, 2022, was the same student involved in the January 6, 2023, shooting.

The student who was the subject of this email is a completely different student. The school division can verify this and the fact that the student was not at Richneck Elementary School on January 6, 2023. We obviously cannot reveal the identity of the student, but everyone on the email communications knows that this is not the student from the tragic event on January 6th. However, on November 22, 2022, Mrs. Newton responded to Ms. Zwerner within five minutes of her initial email asking if this particular student had a behavior contract or a goal sheet in an effort to seek solutions to addressing this student's behavior. There was also communication from the teacher (Ms. Zwerner) and assistant principal (Dr. Parker) about scheduling a conference where the Dr. Parker would sit in and discuss putting this in place to support the student identified in the email.

Whomever provided this information to the media is irresponsible and reckless. As I mentioned in my press conference on February 2, 2023, we all need to be accurate, thorough, and thoughtful about continuing to put information into the public sphere before verifying information otherwise, it becomes more about creating a story than about seeking the truth. I am also confirming that Mrs. Newton remains employed with the school division awaiting reassignment."



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.