The 6-year-old boy who police say intentionally shot his first-grade teacher at a school in Virginia in January showed warning signs and violent behavior in the days before the shooting, an attorney for wounded teacher Abby Zwerner wrote in a recent notice of intent to sue.
In one instance, the boy choked a different teacher until she couldn’t breathe, attorney Diane Toscano wrote in a notice obtained by media outlets through an open records request.
According to the Daily Press, the alleged choking incident happened last year. The notice also alleges that two days before the shooting, the 6-year-old broke Zwerner’s cell phone and cursed at guidance counselors, resulting in a one-day suspension.
At the beginning of the school year, the boy constantly cursed at the staff and teachers, and once took off his belt on the playground and chased kids trying to whip them, the filing says.
The notice was sent to Newport News Public Schools on Jan. 24. The three-page document alleges that administrators at the school repeatedly failed to properly respond to warnings from the boy. The notice singles out the then-assistant principal Ebony Parker.
“Three different times Assistant Principal Parker was warned by concerned teachers or employees that the shooter had a gun on him at school,” the notice said, according to reports. “The tragedy was entirely preventable if Assistant Principal Parker had done her job and acted when she had knowledge of imminent danger.”
James Ellenson, an attorney for the boy’s family, addressed some of the claims made in the notice.
“A 6-year-old cannot be prosecuted since he cannot form criminal intent,” he said in an email. “The school system had a duty to protect all parties involved.”
The allegations in the notice expand on what Zwerner’s attorney Toscano said during a news conference in late January.
On the day of the shooting, Zwerner went to Parker’s office to say that the 6-year-old was more “off” than usual, was in a “violent mood” and after he had threatened to beat up a kindergartner, “angrily stared down” a security officer in the cafeteria, the notice says.
By 11:45 a.m. that day, the filing alleges, a second teacher was told the boy had a gun in his backpack. The second teacher searched his backpack 45 minutes later, but couldn’t find a weapon. Zwerner said she believed he still had a gun because she saw him take something out of his backpack and put it in his pocket before the second teacher looked in his bag, the filing says.
The claim says the second teacher relayed her own concerns to Parker, who dismissed them because the boy “has small pockets.”
At around 1 p.m. that day, a third teacher was told by another student that the boy had a gun and threatened to shoot that student if he told anyone, the notice alleges.
The third “kept that student in her class because he was so upset,” the notice said.
The third teacher told a fourth teacher, the document alleges, who then brought the issue up with Parker. She allegedly dismissed the concern saying that his backpack had already been searched. Two additional requests to search the boy for the gun were allegedly denied by Parker, the filing says.
“The shooter spent his entire recess with a gun in his pocket, a gun that was loaded and ready to fire, with his hand in that pocket while lots of first-grade students played,” the notice says.
The shocking incident is said to involve one of the youngest school shooters in the country’s history of such violence.
It left 25-year-old teacher Abigail Zwerner severely injured and wounded in her chest and hand. The bullet remains lodged in her chest.
Authorities in the Old Dominion have not charged the boy’s parents but have said the gun in question belonged to his mother. It is unclear how the boy got the weapon. Ellenson has said the gun was secured.
Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew has said the boy’s mother may face charges.
The boy was punished for last year’s alleged choking incident.
“The shooter had been removed from the school a year prior after he choked his teacher until she couldn’t breathe,” the claim says.
Late Tuesday, the director of Legal Services at Newport News Public Schools told CBS News that the notice of intent to sue had been forwarded to an insurance company.
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