6-Year-Old Brought Gun to Virginia School in Backpack, Teacher Helped Students After Being Shot: Police Update

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
January 10, 2023US News
6-Year-Old Brought Gun to Virginia School in Backpack, Teacher Helped Students After Being Shot: Police Update
A side door warns visitors to stop at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 7, 2023. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)

A Newport News, Virginia elementary school teacher helped her students to safety after a 6-year-old student brought a 9 mm Taurus pistol into her classroom in a backpack and allegedly shot her in the chest, police said in an update on Monday.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew told reporters on Monday that police interviewed the 6-year-old and his mother at police headquarters after the incident at Richneck Elementary School and determined the firearm was legally purchased in York County.

“We determined that the firearm was in the residence where they lived, and the child had obtained that firearm, placed it in his backpack, and brought it to school. He was brought to school that day by his mother later that morning,” Drew said.

Police determined the shooting was not accidental.

Owing to the suspect’s age, detectives consulted with Human Services, Child Protective Services, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, and the Community Service Board, which deals with mental and behavioral health.

It was determined to take the 6-year-old into custody under an emergency custody order and evaluate him at a local hospital, according to police. The boy was then detained under a temporary detention order obtained from a magistrate and is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility, Drew said.

Investigations will continue to determine, among other things, if Child Protective Services and Human Services had any prior interactions with the boy and his family.

The Newport News police chief walked reporters through a timeline of the incident and gave an update on the condition of teacher Abigail Zwerner, 25, who was initially hospitalized with a life-threatening injury on Friday.

“Abigail wanted me to tell you all … that she is in stable condition and she is thankful for the thoughts and prayers,” Drew said.

Drew said he had met with Zwerner on two occasions since the incident and noted that he was touched that each time they met, she asked after her students. He described her as a “trooper” and “a hero.”

Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School following a shooting in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 7, 2023. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)


After processing the crime scene, investigators recovered one spent shell casing, a backpack, a cellphone, and a 9 mm Taurus firearm, Drew said.

“The firearm was recovered close to the student’s desk where the shooting occurred,” he said.

At the time of the incident, Zwerner was teaching when the 6-year-old allegedly pointed the gun at her and fired one round, according to police. There was no physical struggle or fight, the police chief noted.

Drew said Zwerner gave him permission to share her account of the incident. He later noted that child psychologists trained to interview children would be brought in to get the students’ accounts of what happened.

“[Zwerner] took a defensive position where she raised her hand, the round went through her hand, exited the rear of her hand, and into her upper chest,” Drew said. “She leaned back and took that round,” he added.

After being shot, Zwerner “was still able to get all of her students out of that classroom,” Drew said, adding that school surveillance footage shows the students running across the hall into other classrooms.

According to Drew, Zwerner was the last person to exit the classroom. He said she stopped in the hallway to ensure her students were safe before going to the administration office, where she was given first aid while other individuals spoke to emergency dispatchers.

“They took care of her through communications until the paramedics got with her,” Drew said.

Richneck Elementary School following a shooting in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 7, 2023. (Jay Paul/Getty Images)


At 1:59 p.m., Newport News Police received a call that a teacher had been shot at Richneck Elementary School. Officers were dispatched to the school at 2 p.m.

The alert went out broadly, so responding law enforcement included a mix of police and sheriff’s deputies, according to Drew.

At 2:04 p.m., two sheriff’s deputies entered the school building and the classroom. Two police officers entered around 10 seconds later.

“When they entered the room, they found a 6-year-old child that was being physically restrained by a school employee,” the Newport News police chief said. “The child became a little combative; actually struck the school employee that was restraining him, and officers then took control of him and escorted him out of the building, placed him in a police car with an officer inside and outside of that vehicle.”

Once the 6-year-old was placed in the police vehicle, law enforcement began a systematic evacuation of the school.

At 2:06 p.m., medics arrived at the school; they were cleared to enter the school a minute later. They reached the injured teacher by 2:09 p.m., and two minutes later Zwerner was transported to a local hospital for treatment.


School employees and officers escorted the students to the gym following the shooting where they were later reunited with their parents, according to Drew.

Meanwhile, the students who were in the classroom when the shooting took place were taken to the library where they were held with detectives, “a couple of teachers,” and eventually school counselors were escorted to the library “so that the professionals could be with our young people, the students,” according to police.

Police worked with school officials to systematically reunite students with their parents, which Drew noted caused some “frustration” among parents eager to retrieve their children.

The police chief praised the fire department, law enforcement officers, and school officials for the care they provided students in the immediate aftermath.

From The Epoch Times

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