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6-year-old who shot teacher in Newport News won’t face criminal charges, prosecutor says

The city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, said Wednesday that he would not press charges against a 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher in January, but has not yet decided whether to charge any adults involved in the case. may or may not be held criminally liable. ,

In an interview with NBC News, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said that “the likelihood that a 6-year-old could stand trial is problematic” given that a child does not have the ability to understand the legal system. would not qualify and whether the charge was meant to or would adequately assist an attorney. It is not unheard of for a juvenile of that age to be arrested in general, and theoretically, a 6-year-old could be criminally charged under Virginia law. Allegations can be made.

But Gwynn said he does not believe there is any legal basis to charge the child and that his office is focusing on the others after receiving the case in February from Newport News police.

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

abigail zwerner
Abigail Zwerner.AB Zwerner via Facebook

A shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Jan. 6 is expected to lead to a possible lawsuit from teacher Abigail Zwerner to remove the school superintendent and an assistant principal and install metal detectors.

According to an attorney for Zwerner, the first-grade teacher, the boy had behavioral issues and a pattern of troubling interactions with school staff and other students. A notice of intent to sue states that the boy was given a one-day suspension for breaking Zwerner’s cellphone, and returned the next day with a 9mm handgun that he used to shoot his teacher in class, While she was sitting at the table reading.

Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, said at a news conference in January that three teachers went to school administration about the boy’s behavior and believed he had a gun on campus.

Toscano said that the shooting was “absolutely preventable” if the administration “had acted upon having knowledge of the imminent danger,” adding, “but instead, they failed to act, and Abby was shot.” “

Zwerner, 25, was seriously hurt in her arm and chest, but police said she still managed to safely pull about 20 students out of her classroom. She remained hospitalized for about two weeks.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called the shooting intentional. In a Facebook Live video last month in which he said prosecutors would begin a review of the case, Drew told viewers that it takes time for detectives to interview children and examine forensic evidence.

“It’s so much more than someone bringing a gun to school and that gun being found,” he said.

In the wake of the shooting, the family of the 6-year-old boy said in a statement that the weapon was “safe” in the home and that they “have always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of reach of children.”

The family also said that the boy has a severe disability and was receiving “treatment required” under court-granted temporary custody at a medical facility.

Police said the child’s mother legally purchased the gun he used, but did not specify how she obtained it or whether it was properly secured as the family claimed.

An attorney for the boy’s family and the law firm representing Zwerner both declined to comment Wednesday about the prosecutor’s ongoing investigation and decision not to seek charges against the child.

A spokeswoman for the Newport News School District said it had no additional comment about the investigation, and the district has previously said it could not share any information in the child’s educational records, citing the police investigation.

Gwynn told The Associated Press last month that his office had received three binders of information from police in the case. His team is also reviewing police bodycam footage from the officers who responded to the scene.

Legal experts previously said the child was unlikely to face charges due to eligibility concerns, although his parents could be charged with reckless endangerment or child neglect.

Gwynn said that if there was a decision to charge anyone in connection with the case, it would be either through a grand jury or in consultation with the police.

While there is no timeline for when charges might be brought, Gwynn made a distinction last month with a parallel incident in Norfolk, Virginia, in which charges were quickly filed against a mother whose 6-year-old son Brought a gun to primary school. In that case, no one was injured and police charged the mother with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and allowing the child access to a loaded firearm.

“In our case, the police decided to turn the file over to us to make a decision,” Gwynn said. “And we have to base our decision on our ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”



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