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What police now say about the teacher shot by a 6-year-old student

Posted at 12:59 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 17:00:01-05

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) - The 6-year-old Virginia student who shot and wounded his teacher pulled the handgun from a backpack and shot her while she was teaching his first-grade class, a police chief said.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew on Monday offered the first description of how the shooting happened. He had previously said that the shooting was not accidental and declined to elaborate.

He said the student pulled the gun out, pointed at the teacher and fired at her. He said there was no physical struggle over the gun preceding the gunshot. No students were injured.

Drew said that the gun had been legally purchased by the child’s mother in York County. It was in the child’s residence, he put it in his back pack and brought it to school, the chief said.

The teacher who was wounded Friday in the shooting, Abby Zwerner, was in stable condition Monday at an area hospital. Describing her as a hero, Drew said he had spoken to her and one of her biggest concerns was for her students.

"Last Friday was a hard day for our city. For all of us. And there were a lot of heroes. I will tell you that Saturday afternoon... I was able to meet with Abigail Zwerner. Abigail was a 25-year-old teacher and she is a trooper. She is a hero," Drew said. "When I met with Abigail's family on Saturday and they took me up to her room, she asked me, first question, 'do you know how my students are?' She was worried about them."

Drew said after the shooting, the boy was physically restrained by a school employee and that he struck the employee. The boy was taken away in a police car.

A candlelight vigil in honor of Zwerner was planned for Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Principal Briana Foster Newton said in an update on the school’s website that the school will be closed for the week.

Police have declined to describe what led to the altercation or any other details about what happened in the classroom, citing the ongoing investigation. They have also declined to say how the boy got access to the gun or who owns the weapon.

Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty. Authorities have not specified where the boy was being held.

On Monday morning, several parents, grandparents and community members gathered with a local pastor in an open patch of grass outside the school.

Among them was parent Eric Billet, who said each of his three children in the Newport News school system, two of whom go to Richneck, has reacted differently to the shooting.

Billet’s son who is in middle school has raised concerns about school security, telling his dad that he felt safer at theme parks, which the boy argued had better security than his school. His second-grade son is doing better, Billet said, fist-bumping a police officer on his way out of school Friday.

His daughter, a fourth-grader, has had nightmares every night, Billet said.

But at the same time, he said, “she was also disappointed she couldn’t go to school this week.”

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

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