Parents in Newport News, Virginia, returned to Richneck Elementary School on Tuesday to pick up the belongings their children left on Friday after a 6-year-old student shot and wounded his teacher, Abigail Zwerner, in the chest with his mother's 9mm handgun, according to police. "I want to reiterate that this shooting was not accidental," Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said Monday evening. "It was intentional." And officials seem unsure how to move forward given that this school shooter is 6.
"None of us have a lot of information about dealing with something like this," Drew said. Newport News Schools Superintendent George Parker said the district's high schools have metal detectors, and officials will now have to consider whether to install them at elementary schools. "In no way do I believe that we were fully prepared for a 6-year-old student to bring a gun, this weapon, to school and shoot his teacher," he said. Still, "we have to find a pathway to move forward."
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) told The Washington Post editorial board on Monday that his path forward after this shocking tragedy will be to push for more police officers in schools and tougher penalties for crimes committed with guns. "One of the key concerns I have is I wasn't able last year to get school resource officers in every school," Youngkin said. "We didn't get them in every elementary school and we should."
Youngkin did not explain how having police in schools would have prevented a 6-year-old first grader from carrying his mother's gun to school in his backpack and shooting his teacher with it. But parents said they want something done to improve school safety. The unidentified boy is being held at a medical facility under court order, Drew said. "Legal experts said it would be difficult to charge the boy with a crime because under Virginia law, children younger than 7 are presumed not to be able to form the intent to commit an illegal act," the Post notes.
Zwerner, meanwhile, is in stable condition in a Newport News hospital, Drew said, calling her "a hero" who likely "saved lives on Friday." Zwerner "was the last person to leave that class," he said. "She turned around to make sure every one of those students was safe."