Abby Zwerner: Virginia Teacher Who Was Shot by 6-Year-Old Was Trying to Confiscate Gun When the Child Deliberately Pulled the Trigger

Abby Zwerner, 25, was shot at about 2 pm on Friday at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va.

  • Updated

The first-grade teacher who was intentionally shot by her 6-year-old student was trying to confiscate the gun but the child instead pulled the trigger, leaving the teacher almost dead, one of the parents whose son is also in the same class has said. Abby Zwerner, 25, was shot at about 2 pm on Friday at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va.

Zwerner had just finished reading a story and was on her way to an art lesson when the child brought out the handgun. According to a Washington Post report, Zwerner was listed at Riverside Regional Medical Center in a severe but stable condition on Sunday.

Fighting Back to Life

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

Brittaney Gregory, whose son was also in the class, told the Washington Post that Zwener was trying to confiscate the gun from the 6-year-old but within a fraction of a second the child pulled the trigger. "She was going to confiscate it, and that's when he shot," Gregory told the outlet.

Seeing their teacher shot, the children quickly ran out of the classroom and entered another, where they remained in lockdown. Zwerner's injuries required immediate medical attention, and she is currently in a critical but stable condition.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

Zwerner was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Friday with serious injuries. Zwerner has been hailed as a hero for telling the other students to flee as the gunfire started.

The 6-year-old has been taken into custody following the horrific incident. According to Police Chief Steve Drew, it was the consequence of a struggle and "not an accidental shooting."

It was not known what sparked the altercation or how the child got his hands on the firearm.

Zwerner, according to Gregory, was her son's favorite teacher and would frequently put messages in his backpack. "I hope you had a great day," Gregory said the teacher wrote in one. "I want you to know your smile is contagious," another said, according to the parent.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

Gregory claimed that her son is "still in shock" and is having nightmares as a result of the incident.

"He normally sleeps in his own room but the night of the shooting he came into my room. He was talking in his sleep, saying we got to get out of here," she told the outlet, adding that she is planning to take her son to a therapist.

Child Unlikely to be Punished

Gregory claimed that a neighbor asked her if she had seen a report on television when she learned about the shooting. "What school?" she said she asked. "'Your son's school. They said it was the first grade,'" the neighbor told her, she said.

Brittaney Gregory
Brittaney Gregory's son also is in the same class where Abby Zwerner teaches Facebook

"My heart instantly dropped," Gregory said. However, she was relieved to find out that all the children were safe upon arrival at the school.

"Not physically, but this is going to scar him mentally," she said she thought.

When she was finally reunited with her son, she said "you could tell on his face what he was going through. He was a deer in the headlights."

Another kid, meanwhile, detailed the chaotic seconds following the gunfire. "We were doing math ... an announcer came on, she was like, 'Lockdown, I repeat, lockdown,'" fifth-grader Novah Jones, who was in another classroom, told CNN.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

"I was scared ... it was like my first lockdown and I didn't know what to do, so I just hid under my desk like everybody was," she said during an interview that included her mother, Kasheba Jones.

Novah told her mother about the lockout as the police rushed to the area.

"I texted her, 'Mom, help,'" she said.

"I couldn't breathe, I was in shock," her mother, Kasheba, told CNN.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

That night, Novah claimed, she experienced "flashbacks" and had trouble falling asleep because she was afraid the youngster "still had the gun and he was going to come to my house."

The child, whose name hasn't been disclosed since he is a minor, is still in custody but he is unlikely to ever be charged with any crime.

"As a practical matter, it would be next to impossible to prosecute a six-year-old, no matter how serious," said Andrew Block, associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Abby Zwerner
Abby Zwerner Twitter

According to Block, the "infancy defense" holds that children under the age of seven lack the mental capacity to develop criminal intent. "The bigger barrier, presuming the prosecution could overcome that, is all defendants have to be competent to stand trial," Block said.

"That means you have to understand the nature of legal proceedings against you and assist in your own defense. There's no way a six-year-old would meet that criteria. The juvenile justice system would not be equipped to handle such a young kid."

Guns must be secured from children under the age of 14 according to Virginia law, therefore an adult might be charged with a misdemeanor.

Join the Discussion
READ MORE