A 6-year-old Virginia boy remains in custody after he brought a gun to school and, without warning, shot his first-grade teacher in the chest.
Abby Zwerner, 25, was teaching i in front of her first-grade classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, on Jan. 6 when the young boy pointed a 9-millimeter Taurus handgun at her. Zwerner raised her hand to defend herself and when the boy fired the gun the bullet passed through her hand and hit her in the chest, Newport News police Chief Steve Drew said at a Monday press conference.
“She suffered a gunshot wound but she was still able to get all of her students out of the classroom,” said Drew. “From the video surveillance we have in the hallway we see the 15 to17 students running out of the classroom. Ms. Zwerner was the last person to leave that classroom.”
“She (made) sure every one of the students was safe.”
Zwerner is in stable condition. While police initially said there was an altercation before the shooting, they now say there was no fight or conflict with the teacher. When police arrived they found the 6-year-old being “physically restrained by a school employee.” He was then brought into custody and interviewed by police. He is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility under an emergency custody order.
Drew said that he believes Zwerner “saved lives on Friday.”
The shooting by the boy is believed to be intentional, Drew said at a Monday press conference. The gun was purchased by the boy's mother and was kept in the home. Drew said the child had “obtained that firearm, placed it in his backpack, and brought it to school.”
Police did not say whether the firearm was locked away.
It is unclear if the mother will face charges but she has been interviewed by police. In Virginia, it is illegal to recklessly leave a weapon in a state where it can be used to “endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen.” If found guilty she could face a year in prison and a fine of $2,500. It’s unlikely that the boy will face charges because of his age.
Drew said he did not know how the 6-year-old knew how to use a gun.
This isn’t the first time a school shooting in the U.S. by someone so young has occurred. In 2000, a 6-year-old boy brought a gun to his Michigan school and shot and killed his classmate, Kayla Rolland. The boy shot Rolland, also 6, in a stairwell and before killing his classmate said “I don’t like you.”
The boy did not face any punishment for the killing as it was deemed he was too young to make a decision. His uncle, who owned the gun and had it improperly stored, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and spent two and a half years in prison.
In 2013, a 5-year-old Kindergarten student brought a handgun to his school in his backpack. It accidentally discharged in the cafeteria during the school’s breakfast but no one was hurt.
Teachers and well-wishers held a vigil for Zwerner on Monday night.