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Gun Used by Child Who Shot Teacher Was ‘Secured’

NORFOLK, Va.—The family of a 6-year-old boy who shot and wounded his teacher in Virginia said Thursday that the gun he used had been “secured” and that one of his parents usually accompanied him in class but did not the week the shooting occurred.

The family’s statement was released by an attorney and did not elaborate further on where the 9mm handgun was kept. The family also was not identified.

“Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children,” the statement said. “The firearm our son accessed was secured.”

The family also said that the boy “suffers from an acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.”

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

The statement was released through the office of Newport News-based attorney James S. Ellenson. It is the first public communication from the child’s family and comes nearly two weeks after the shooting occurred Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary.

Police said earlier that the 6-year-old’s mother legally purchased the gun but that it was unclear how her son gained access to it. A Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to a child under 14, a misdemeanor crime punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence and $2,500 fine.

No charges have been brought against the mother, but the investigation continues, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said during one of two Facebook live chats he held with the community Wednesday.

Investigators have nearly finished interviewing the children who were in the classroom, Drew said, and police are working with a psychologist to talk to them about what they saw.

The statement from the boy’s family also elaborated on the child’s relationship with his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, who is still recovering from the gunshot wound and has been called a hero by police and educators alike.

“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 said.

“She has worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son,” the statement continued. “We thank her for her courage, grace, and sacrifice. We grieve alongside all of the other teachers, families, and administrators for how this horrific incident has impacted them, our community, and the nation.”

The family said the child has been under hospital care since the shooting and is receiving “the treatment he needs.”

“We continue to pray for his teacher’s full recovery, and for her loved ones who are undoubtedly upset and concerned,” the family said. “At the same time, we love our son and are asking that you please include him and our family in your prayers.”

School Shooting Newport News
A candle is lifted into the air as residents of Newport News hold a candlelight vigil in honor of Richneck Elementary School first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner at the School Administration Building in Newport News, Va., on Jan. 9, 2023. (John C. Clark/AP Photo)

The shooting occurred as Zwerner was teaching her first grade class at Richneck. Authorities said there was no warning and no struggle before the boy pointed the gun at Zwerner. The bullet pierced her hand and struck her chest, police said. The 25-year-old teacher hustled her students out of the classroom before being rushed to the hospital.

Drew, the police chief, described the shooting as “intentional.” A judge will determine what’s next for the child.

The superintendent of Newport News schools revealed last week that Richneck administrators had learned the child may have had a weapon before the shooting. But a search did not find the handgun, despite staff looking through his bag.

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