Six-year-old who shot teacher in Virginia school won’t face charges, says prosecutor

The city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, won’t be seeking charges against the 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher in January. However, he is yet to decide if any adults can be held criminally liable for the incident. Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News that the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” since he doesn’t understand the legal system and can’t assist an attorney. 

While a child of that age can be criminally charged under Virginia law, Gwynn said that he does not believe there is a legal basis to charge a child. His office has been focussing its attention on other people involved in the case ever since it received it in February. 

“Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible,” Gwynn said. “Once we analyze all the facts, we will charge any person or persons that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt committed a crime.”

The said incident took place on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. A potential lawsuit is likely to be filed on behalf of the teacher who was shot, Abigail Zwerner. She is a first-grade teacher, and her lawyer says that the boy had behavioural issues. He had repeatedly had troubling interactions with other school staff and students. 

A notice of intent to sue said the boy was suspended for a day for breaking Zwerner’s cellphone. The next day, he came to the class with a 9mm handgun that he used to shoot his teacher in the classroom while she sat at a reading table. The 25-year-old sustained serious injuries in a hand and her chest and was hospitalised for two weeks. Despite her injuries, she managed to safely escort 20 students out of the classroom.

Meanwhile, the boy’s parents said that the weapon was “secured” in the home and that they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew says the shooting was intentional. “This is a lot more than just someone bringing a gun to school and that gun was found,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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