Shocking | 

Boy (6) in custody after shooting teacher in stomach following US classroom altercation

“This was not an accidental shooting,” said Steve Drew, police chief at Newport News

Abigail Zwerner, the teacher shot in the US by a six-year-old boy in her class. Photo: Facebook© Abby Zwerner/Facebook


A six-year-old boy is in police custody after reportedly shooting a teacher in the stomach and leaving her with life-threatening injuries, following a classroom altercation.

“This was not an accidental shooting,” said Steve Drew, police chief at Newport News, a city in the eastern state of Virginia.

The teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, is in a stable condition, following the incident at Richneck Elementary School on Friday.

It was unclear how the child got the gun. “It is still a fluid and active investigation. We are working around the clock,” a police spokesman said.

Among the large number of school shootings across the US, there have been 16 cases since 1970 in which the perpetrator was under 10.

Under Virginia law, a six-year-old child cannot be charged as an adult despite the gravity of the offence.

Even if charged in a juvenile court, the minimum age for juvenile custody is 11.

“The juvenile justice system is not really equipped to deal with really young kids who commit criminal offences and is probably the wrong place to deal with a situation like this,” said Andrew Block, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

This was the third shooting at a school in the Newport News area in 17 months. In September 2021, two 17-year-olds were injured when a 16-year-old opened fire during a school lunch break.

Then, three months later, 17-year-old Justice Dunham was shot dead by Demari Batten (18) in the car park of Menchville High School.

Details of the Richneck school incident, which happened at 2pm on Friday, are vague. After being shot, Ms Zwerner screamed at children to get to safety, it was reported.

Sebastian Gonzalez-Hernandez said his child was in the classroom at the time.

“My son didn’t see what happened, he heard the gunshot go off, and turned around to see Ms Zwerner on the floor. She is an amazing teacher, so dedicated,” he said.

A grandmother of another pupil said the child shooter brought bullets to the school the previous week and said he would bring a gun.

The school, she claimed, had been told of the incident, but took no action.

“We’re a quiet neighbourhood,” said Daniel Smith, a resident of Newport News, a city of 180,000 with a major shipyard and naval base. “Nobody bothers anybody, and they look out for each other.”

The shooting renewed calls for tighter gun laws restricting children’s access to weapons.

In Virginia, it is illegal for anyone to leave a loaded gun recklessly “in a manner that it would endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14”.

But campaigners described the state’s legislation as inadequate. “Virginia’s law is on the weaker end of the spectrum of these types of laws,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel at the Giffords Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence.

It is estimated 4.6 million children in the US live in a home with at least one unlocked firearm.

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