A six-year-old child shot his first-grade teacher in Newport News, Virginia.
Abigail Zwerner, 30, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School, suffered injuries described as life-threatening but is now in stable condition. The incident reportedly occurred just as a small reading group in the class was about to learn about art.
“She was going to confiscate it, and that’s when he shot,” the mother of one child in the class told The Washington Post.
The former director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice cited what he called the “infancy defense” to dismiss the idea that the child, placed in police custody, could be prosecuted.
“As a practical matter, it would be next to impossible to prosecute a 6-year-old, no matter how serious,” Andrew Block told the Post. “The bigger barrier, presuming the prosecution could overcome that, is all defendants have to be competent to stand trial. “That means you have to understand the nature of legal proceedings against you and assist in your own defense. There’s no way a 6-year-old would meet that criteria.”
A parent of one of the first-grade students told The Daily Mail that Zwerner “screamed at her kids to run away” after she was shot. Sebastian Gonzalez-Hernandez continued, “Even after she’d been shot she was thinking about the safety of her children. My son didn’t see what happened; he heard the gunshot go off, and turned around to see Miss Zwerner on the floor.”
“She is an amazing teacher, so dedicated,” he added. “My son absolutely loves her, and we’re devastated about what’s happened. We are all thinking of her and hoping that she gets better soon.”
John Eley III, a former member of the Newport News School Board, visited Zwerner in the hospital and met several members of her family who also serve as teachers. “The family was all educators and said she was excited about doing the job,” he said. “The custodians and other teachers spoke about how she’s a good teammate, she’s a team player, she loves her children, she’s just an all-around good teacher.”
Richneck Principal Briana Foster Newton reacted to the incident by stating, “My heart is aching for our school community. The tragic event that occurred on Friday impacts all of us deeply. My thoughts and prayers remain with our teacher who was seriously injured, and our students and our staff, who are dealing with the aftereffects of this tragedy.”