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‘A lot of information’: Investigation into 6 year old who shot teacher is ‘very different’ than what law enforcement is used to but has moved on to DA’s office


Abby Zwerner is wearing a yellow sweater and holding a sign that says "Welcome to First Grade." She is smiling and looking directly at the camera.

Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., suffered life-threatening injuries after being shot by a six-year-old student on Jan. 6, 2023. [Screengrab via GoFundMe]

The criminal case involving the 6-year-old boy who police say intentionally shot his first-grade teacher at a Virginia primary school in January has moved to the next step, law enforcement said this week.

On Tuesday, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said his agency has handed over the investigation to the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in a Facebook Live discussion.

One commenter during the chat noted that authorities in nearby Norfolk, Virginia, just last week charged a mother on the same day her child, a 6-year-old, allegedly brought a gun to school. The chief took the comment’s meaning as a criticism of their similar case.

“I get it, they did, an individual brought a gun to school, and they made an arrest,” Drew said. “In Norfolk – great job.”

Then he laid out the comparison.

“The difference is that on ours, an individual brought a gun to school, a teacher was shot, there’s forensics evidence, there’s 17, 18 students – children – that have to be interviewed, not by an officer but by a psychologist.

“You’ve got to find a place to do that. You’ve got to find a child psychologist to do that. You’ve got to get the parents to agree to that, and then you’re interviewing faculty and staff. We’re [looking at] school records, if any, child protective service records. It’s very different.”

More Law&Crime Coverage: 6-year-old boy who shot teacher allegedly choked another teacher until she couldn’t breathe: Reports

Arresting for gun possession is one thing, the chief said.

“It’s very, very different when you have someone who is injured,” Drew said. “When you have someone who has suffered a gunshot wound and can’t be interviewed right away. It’s apples and oranges.”

Calling the incident where first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner was shot in her hand and chest on Jan. 6, “a big case,” the chief said his department was not giving anything about the incident short shrift.

“We had someone shot in an elementary school,” Drew said. “Not just bring a gun there. We had someone shot. And we’re not going to skip things just to get it done. We’re going to do it by the book.”

More Law&Crime Coverage: Lawyer for Teacher Shot by First Grader Says School Ignored Warnings of Gun, Argued ‘He Has Little Pockets’

The chief said that additional witnesses came forward, and more interviews with other witnesses were conducted after that. The police investigation was finished last week, Drew added, then reviewed and then submitted to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Authorities have not charged the boy’s parents but have said the gun belonged to his mother. It’s unclear how the boy got the weapon. An attorney for the family, James Ellenson, has said the gun was secured. Drew has previously said the boy’s mother might face charges.

Newport News Commonwealth Attorney Howard Gwynn said detectives handed over three binders worth of information to his office and body-worn camera videos from officers responding to the shooting, The Associated Press reported.

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