Actions

Recovering teacher shot by 6-year-old: ‘It’s changed me’

Posted at 9:12 PM, Mar 20, 2023

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- A Virginia teacher who was shot and wounded by her 6-year-old student said she has had four surgeries and is going through a challenging recovery.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Jan. 6 shooting, first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner said during an exclusive interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie that she has some days when she “can't get up out of bed," while others she is able to go about her day and make it to appointments.

“For going through what I've gone through, I try to stay positive. You know, try to have a positive outlook on what's happened and where my future's heading,” Zwerner said in a portion of the interview that was aired Monday on “NBC Nightly News.”

Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks after being shot in the chest and left hand as she taught her class at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. The shooting rattled the military shipbuilding community and sent shock waves around the country, with many wondering how a child so young could get access to a gun and shoot his teacher.

Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, told reporters in January that concerned staff at the school had warned administrators three times that the 6-year-old had a gun and was threatening other students in the hours before Zwerner was shot. Toscano said the school administration “was paralyzed by apathy” and didn’t call the police, remove the boy from class or lock down the school.

In early February, Zwerner’s legal notice of her intent to sue the school district said the boy who shot Zwerner had constantly cursed at staff and teachers, tried to whip students with his belt and once choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe.”

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner’s cell phone and broke it, leading to a one-day suspension. When the boy returned to her class the following day, he pulled his mother’s 9mm handgun out of his pocket and shot her while she sat at a reading table, the legal notice said.

The Newport News School board fired its superintendent in the wake of the shooting. Ebony Parker, an assistant principal who was a primary focus in Zwerner’s intent to sue notice, resigned.

Newport News’ top prosecutor said earlier this month that he would not seek charges against the 6-year-old because the child lacked the competency to understand the legal system and what a charge means. But Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said his office hadn't decided if any adults would be held criminally accountable.

The boy used his mother’s legally purchased gun, according to police. James Ellenson, a lawyer for the child’s mother, stated in January that the weapon was secured on a high closet shelf and was locked away.

Ellenson said it was unclear how the boy got access to the gun. He also said that the boy “was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.”

In a statement released through Ellenson, the boy's family said the week of the shooting “was the first week when we were not in class with him. "

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

More of the interview with Zwerner will be aired during the “Today” show Tuesday morning.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

CBS6-News-at-4pm-and-Jennifer-Hudson-480x360.jpg

Entertainment

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.