Virginia school shooting: 6-year-old brought gun in backpack, fired during instruction

The 6-year-old is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility.

January 9, 2023, 5:44 PM

A 6-year-old student took a handgun from his home, put it in his backpack and brought it to his Newport News, Virginia, elementary school where he allegedly shot and injured a teacher, according to police.

Police have interviewed the 6-year-old and his mother in the wake of Friday's shooting and determined the gun was legally purchased by the boy's mother, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said at a news conference Monday. The 6-year-old "obtained" the 9 mm Taurus pistol at his home and brought it to Richneck Elementary School, Drew said.

The 6-year-old is accused of shooting 25-year-old teacher Abigail Zwerner in a first grade classroom in an "intentional" act, police said.

PHOTO: A empty basketball court is seen outside Richneck Elementary School, Jan. 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
A empty basketball court is seen outside Richneck Elementary School, Jan. 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
Jay Paul/Getty Images

She was initially hospitalized with life-threatening injuries.

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

Zwerner was giving class instruction when the student pointed the gun at her and fired one round, Drew said, adding that there was no physical struggle or fight.

Zwerner took a defensive position and raised her hand, and the bullet went through her hand and then into her chest, the chief said.

PHOTO: Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School, January 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School, January 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
Jay Paul/Getty Images

After Zwerner was shot, she ushered all of her students out of the classroom, the chief said, adding that she was the last person to leave that class.

The chief called Zwerner "a hero" who "saved lives," and said she's repeatedly asked how her students are doing.

About 16 to 20 students were in the room and none of them were physically injured, officials said.

"There is video recording from the hallway," Drew said. "That's how we know the children ran out of the classroom and across the hall."

Responding officers found a school employee physically restraining the 6-year-old in the classroom, Drew said. The 6-year-old allegedly hit the school employee before police took him into custody, Drew said.

PHOTO: A school sign wishing students a "Happy New Year" is seen outside Richneck Elementary School, Jan. 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
A school sign wishing students a "Happy New Year" is seen outside Richneck Elementary School, Jan. 7, 2023, in Newport News, Virginia.
Jay Paul/Getty Images

The 6-year-old suspect was taken to a hospital for evaluation, Drew said. A temporary detention order was obtained and the child is currently receiving treatment at a medical facility, Drew said Monday.

One spent shell casing was recovered at the scene, police said.

A motive has not been released.

Due to the suspect's age, police said they 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.

Police said they will meet with Child Protective Services and Human Services to see if those agencies have had any interactions with the family or the child.

Because of the student's age, the boy must wait 96 hours before appearing in front of a judge who will determine if he needs continual treatment or what his next step may be, officials said. His fate will be decided by individuals who specialize in dealing with 6-year-olds, officials said.

ABC News' Meredith Deliso, Ivan Pereira, Beatrice Peterson and Ben Siu contributed to this report.

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