Family says six-year-old boy who shot Virginia teacher has ‘acute disability’

‘The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him,’ family says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 19 January 2023 21:12 GMT

Related video: Medical expert weighs in on mindset of 6-year-old who shot teacher in Virginia

The family of the six-year-old boy who shot his teacher in Newport News, Virginia has said that he suffers from an “acute disability”.

It’s the first statement the family has made since the shooting took place just after 2pm on 6 January at Richneck Elementary School.

The student pulled out a firearm from his backpack and shot Abigail Zwerner, a 25-year-old first-grade teacher, during a lesson. The bullet went through her hand and struck her in the chest.

In the statement released by the family’s lawyer James Ellenson, the family shared their sympathy for Ms Zwerner and said that the gun that investigators say the child brought from home and used during the shooting “was secured,” according to The Washington Post.

“Our heart goes out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her healing in the aftermath of such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children in the school,” the family statement said. “She has worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son. We thank her for her courage, grace and sacrifice.”

The family statement didn’t outline any details or specifics about the shooting and didn’t include an explanation as to how the six-year-old managed to get ahold of the firearm.

Police previously revealed that the gun had been bought legally by the boy’s mother.

The authorities said that they are continuing to probe how the child retrieved the gun and they’re reviewing if charges should be filed against anyone for failing to store the gun safely.

The family statement went on to say that they’re working with local and federal agencies “to understand how this could have happened”.

Abby Zwerner was critically injured after allegedly being shot by a 6-year-old student

The six-year-old had a care plan at the school, part of which was one of his parents coming to school with him and being in classes alongside him every day until the week that the shooting occurred, the statement revealed.

“The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him,” the family said. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”

The family added that the student has been in hospital treatment since the shooting.

While the authorities have said that the shooting was intentional, they’re still looking into the motive. The six-year-old hasn’t been charged with a criminal offence and legal analysts say that it will likely stay that way because Virginia state law states that children under the age of seven are unable to form the intent to commit a crime, The Post noted.

On Wednesday, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said that the probe is moving forward, but that investigators still need to speak to some of the other students in the class and retrieve school records and other documents and materials.

Chief Drew said Ms Zwerner is still in recovery after being taken to hospital following the shooting.

Hundreds of parents appeared at a school board meeting earlier this week to share their concerns about school safety in the district where three school ground shootings have taken place since 2021, according to The Post.

Several parents also criticised how the school acted ahead of the shooting.

Last week, Newport News schools Superintendent George Parker III said that school staff had been tipped off that the six-year-old had a firearm and that his bag had been searched, but that no gun was found.

Police said previously that they were not made aware of the tip and parents have questioned how the child was able to hide a gun from school staff.

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