Home News 6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher Will Not Be Charged, Prosecutor Says

6-Year-Old Who Shot Teacher Will Not Be Charged, Prosecutor Says

by Staff

The 6-year-old who shot and injured his first-grade teacher at an elementary school in Virginia in January will not be charged, but a prosecutor said that he was still deciding whether others could face criminal charges.

The boy shot the 25-year-old teacher once with a handgun in a classroom at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News at about 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, leaving her with “life-threatening” injuries and renewing calls for restrictions to keep guns out of the hands of young people.

The Commonwealth attorney, Howard E. Gwynn, told NBC News on Wednesday that a child that young would not understand the legal system. The “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic,” he said.

He did not respond to repeated calls and an email requesting comment on Thursday.

In a statement released by the Newport News Police Department on Thursday, Mr. Gwynn said he had received the results of the investigation several weeks ago, including three binders and hours of police body camera footage.

“In spite of the national attention that this incomprehensible act has brought to our city, our objective is the same as it has always been — to be thorough, to be objective and to apply the law to the facts fairly and impartially,” he said. “And after that analysis is done, our objective is to charge any person with any crimes that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The shooting in Newport News, a city of more than 180,000 people, about 70 miles southeast of Richmond, Va., stunned officials and the community, drawing significant attention because of the child’s age, the school’s response and the boy’s access to the weapon.

The teacher, Abigail Zwerner, was in the middle of a routine lesson in her first-grade classroom when, the police said, the boy pulled out the gun, aimed it at her and fired. A single bullet passed through her hand and struck her chest.

In the fallout from the shooting, Diane Toscano, a lawyer for Ms. Zwerner, said in January that there had been a series of escalating warnings that the child had a gun, raising questions about the school’s response. A call to Ms. Toscano’s office on Thursday was referred to a public relations office, which did not respond.

Days after the shooting, a spokeswoman for the Newport News public school district, Michelle Price, confirmed that a staff member had searched the child’s backpack before the shooting took place, “after it was reported that the student may have a weapon.” No weapon was found.

On Jan. 25, the school board voted to terminate the contract of the district’s superintendent, George Parker III.

In the first police account of the shooting days after it occurred, Steve Drew, the chief of the Newport News Police Department, said that the shooting was intentional, and that any potential charges would be based on “what the facts are and what the law supports.”

The department said that the boy had retrieved the weapon — a 9-millimeter Taurus handgun that had been legally purchased by his mother — from home, put it in his backpack and brought it to school.

Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to children under 14. The crime is punishable as a misdemeanor.

The K-12 School Shooting Database, which started compiling data on school shootings after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018, has found at least 16 cases involving shooters under the age of 10, three of them involving 6-year-old children and one a 5-year-old.

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