The 6-Year-Old Who Shot His Teacher: 8 Key Revelations
The boy’s parents could face serious criminal charges.
The parents of the 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher could face criminal liability if the gun used by the child had been improperly secured. The first-grade student reportedly shot 25-year-old teacher Abby Zwerner last Friday at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va. According to Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew, the young boy took the gun from his home and placed it in his backpack to take to school. The gun was legally purchased by the boy's mother—it is still unclear how he had access to it. Here's what has been reported so far.
"The test should come down to whether or not appropriate steps were taken to safeguard the weapon," says Virginia criminal defense attorney Steve Duckett. "If they kept [the gun] out in the wide open where anybody could grab it and do something untoward with it, that does expose them potentially to some liability."
While the 6-year-old's parents might be in trouble, It's unlikely the first grader will face any charges. "You can't charge a 6-year-old criminally, that's pretty well established," Duckett says.
Zwerner is said to be recovering in the hospital after being shot through the chest. According to Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones, Zwerner is in "stable condition and trending in a positive direction" after sustaining life-threatening injuries from the shooting.
Zwerner made sure all her students were safe after the shooting, walking them to safety even though she was seriously injured. "She was still able to get all of her students out of that classroom," says Drew. "She made sure that every one of those students was safe."
According to Drew, there was no fight or struggle before the shooting. "The 6-year-old child displayed a firearm, pointed it at her and fired one round," Drew said. "There was no physical struggle or fight. She was providing instruction to her class."
"When we have something like this happen, and we have a crime, we want to see the justice system play out … so that this teacher can receive justice, this school can receive justice," says Kelly L. DiCorrado, a Virginia lawyer who deals with juvenile criminal defense. "There's going to be a lot of people to take into consideration, including this little 6-year-old."
According to Superintendent George Parker, education about gun safety is key to keeping staff and students safe in the future. "Thankfully things like this are incredibly rare, but probably when something this extreme happens it's symptomatic of other things that might be in play whether it's in the home or in the school or in the community or in our society at large," says Andrew Block, a law professor at the University of Virginia and the former director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice.
According to Drew, the first question Zwerner asked when he met her in hospital was to ask after her students. "Abigail is a trooper, she is a hero … Abigail saved lives," Drew says, adding that she asked, "do you know how my students are?"
According to Parker, there is no metal detector for elementary school students. While there are safety protocols for active shooter situations, "there was no way" they had a plan for what would happen if a 6-year-old brought a handgun to school. "Who would be prepared for a six-year-old to bring a loaded weapon into school and shoot their teacher?" Parker said.