Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Virginia Teacher Shooting: No Prior Dispute Involved

Police offered details about the incident at a news conference before a vigil was held for 25-year-old Abby Zwerner. In…

By Editorial , in World Update , at January 11, 2023

Police offered details about the incident at a news conference before a vigil was held for 25-year-old Abby Zwerner.

In the moments before a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher at a Virginia school, there was no fight, physical struggle or warning, authorities said Monday.

“What we know today is that she was giving an instruction. She displayed a firearm, pointed it, and fired a round,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said.

Drew, speaking during a news conference, offered the first detailed description of a shooting that shocked the city and was remarkable even in a country like the United States that seems accustomed to constant gun violence. Drew had previously said the shooting was not accidental and declined to provide further details.

Drew said he wanted to clarify comments he made right after Friday’s shooting, when he mentioned there was an “alteration” before the shooting. He said it was more like an “interaction” between the boy and his first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School, Abby Zwerner, 25.

However, the official also reiterated that the incident “was not accidental.”

“It was intentional,” he said.

Drew also revealed that the 9mm pistol used by the boy was legally purchased by his mother and was in the family home. The boy brought it to school in his backpack that day, the sheriff added.

Zwerner raised her hand in a defensive position as she fired the gun, and the bullet went through the teacher’s hand and upper chest, Drew said. Although his injuries were initially considered life-threatening, he has improved and is currently in stable condition at a hospital.

“A Heroine”

Drew also praised Zwerner as a hero for quickly leading her students out of the classroom after she was shot. He said surveillance video shows that she was the last person to leave her classroom.

She “turned to the right and started walking down the hall, and then stopped. She turned around and made sure all those students were safe,” Drew said.

The sheriff said a school employee ran into the classroom and physically restrained the boy after hearing the shot. He said the boy became “a little combative” and hit the clerk. Police officers arrived and escorted him out of the building and into a police car.

The boy has been detained at a medical facility since an emergency custody order and a temporary detention order were issued Friday, Drew revealed. Now it will be up to a judge to determine what the next steps are for the minor.

According to the official, the boy’s mother has been interviewed by police, but it is unclear if she could face any charges.

Celebrate a Vigil in His Honor

As questions arose about the boy and his mother, Zwerner’s friend told a crowd gathered at a vigil Monday night that the first-grade teacher has shown “dedication and love for what she does day after day.”

“Abby is a warrior and she shows mental and physical strength every day,” said Rosalie List, a second grade teacher at Richneck. “I’m very proud of her.”

Lauren Palladini, Richneck’s school counselor, told the crowd that Zwerner is “sweet. She is thoughtful. She is kind. She and she has been one of the most amazing teachers I have been lucky enough to interact with.”

Amanda Bartley, who teaches at another elementary school in the city, asked everyone to pray for Zwerner and to “pray for the young man who did this.”

As she handed out candles before the vigil, Bartley told The Associated Press that she organized the event to support Zwerner and encourage others, while acknowledging that many unanswered questions remain.

Among them: “How did he get the gun? Why wasn’t she locked up? A good gun owner knows that you keep your gun locked up. You have insurance on. You keep the ammunition separate from the gun itself.”

Gun owners can be prosecuted under a Virginia law that prohibits anyone recklessly leaving a loaded and unsecured gun in a manner that endangers the life or limb of children under the age of 14. Violation of that law is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum jail sentence of one year and a maximum fine of $2,500.

Virginia does not have a law requiring unattended guns to be stored in a particular way or a law requiring gun owners to affirmatively lock their guns.

“Virginia definitely has a weaker law than many other states that have child access prevention laws,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Legal experts said that while it is theoretically possible under Virginia law to criminally charge a 6-year-old child, there are numerous obstacles to doing so and it is highly unlikely that any prosecutor would attempt it.

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