A 6-year-old boy who allegedly shot his elementary school teacher earlier this year will not be charged with a crime, according to Newport News, Virginia, Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn. Richneck Elementary School teacher Abigail Zwerner was critically injured from a bullet that struck her chest on January 6. She was released from the hospital more than a week after the shooting.
Gwynn explained that the law does not support charging and convicting a 6-year-old with aggravated assault. The prosecutor’s decision was reported by NBC News. CNN has reached out to Gwynn and the attorney for the student’s parents, but has not immediately received a response.
When reached by CNN, Toscano Law Group, which represents Zwerner, declined to comment. The shooting rattled the local community and outraged parents whose children were traumatized by yet another incident of gun violence on American school grounds.
Newport News Police said late last month they had completed their investigation into the shooting and presented it to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office. Police Chief Steve Drew said in a February 21 Facebook live briefing that they had a lot of witnesses, a lot of students, and a lot of children to interview, which took a long time.
The details of the child accused of firing at his teacher have not been shared by authorities. The boy’s family said in a statement released roughly two weeks after the shooting that the firearm their son accessed was secured and that he has an acute disability. 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 later statement to CNN, the attorney representing the child’s family said the gun was kept at the top shelf of the mother’s bedroom closet and was secured by a trigger lock, but did not specify how the boy was able to access the weapon. The gun had been legally purchased, authorities have said.
Questions were raised from concerned community members about how school officials had responded to earlier instances of alleged violent behavior. A legal notice sent to the Newport News School Board by Zwerner’s attorney alleged that the boy had a history of disturbing behavior, including cursing at staff members, trying to whip students with his belt, and choking a teacher.
According to that document, the student was suspended for a day after he allegedly “slammed” and broke Zwerner’s cell phone and cursed at guidance counselors. When he returned from the suspension to Zwerner’s classroom, he shot her, the notice alleged.
The teacher’s attorney has also alleged school officials were notified multiple times about the gun’s presence on the day of the shooting. The administration “failed to act” despite having “knowledge of imminent danger,” the attorney stated.
An attorney for Briana Foster Newton, the former principal at the elementary school, has said her client did not know the student had a gun at school that day. Newton was reassigned after the shooting. The fact that the student may have had a gun on the premises that day was not reported to Mrs. Newton at all, according to her attorney.