Virginia 6-year-old used his mom’s gun to shoot ‘hero’ teacher Abby Zwerner

The gun used by a 6-year-old Virginia boy to shoot his teacher was legally bought by his mom — and he might have also shot classmates if the “hero” victim hadn’t intervened, authorities revealed Monday.

The small-fry shooter took the .9mm Taurus handgun from home, stashed it in his backpack and brought it to class at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Friday afternoon, when he shot 25-year-old instructor Abby Zwerner over some kind of dispute, Police Chief Steve Drew said at a briefing.

The bullet went through one of Zwerner’s hands and struck her upper chest as she “took a defensive position,” Drew said.

The top cop appeared to choke up as he described what Zwerner did next.

“She turned around to make sure every one of those students was safe,” ushering the roughly 14 to 16 of them out of the room and then stumbling down the hallway herself to the administrative office before collapsing, Drew said.

“She is a hero,” he said.

“Ms. Zwerner was providing classroom instruction when the 6-year-old child displayed a firearm, pointed it at her and fired one round. There was no physical struggle or fight. She was providing instruction to her class,” the police chief said.

Abby Zwerner, 25, of Williamsburg, Virginia, who was shot at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, VA by a 6 year old student.
Abby Zwerner works as a teacher at Richneck Elementary School.

“From the video surveillance we have of that hallway, you can see the students running out of that classroom across the hall into another classroom. Ms. Zwerner was the last person t o leave that class.

He noted that “there was more than one round” in the gun.

“I believe the [shooter’s] actions were at, or towards, the teacher, but you never know how someone’s going to react with a firearm – students – and we’re talking about a 6-year-old child,” Drew said. “I don’t know what all was going through that individual’s mind, but what I do know is that [Zwerner] made sure each of those kids were out of the room and she was the last one to leave.

“I believe she did save lives, because I don’t know what else might have happened if those kids would have stayed in that room.”

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“This shooting was not accidental. It was intentional. And I believe that Ms. Zwerner, Abigail, that she saved lives on Friday,” the police chief said.

When law-enforcement officers got to the classroom minutes after the shooting, “they found a 6-year-old child that was being physically restrained by a school employee” who was in the hallway when the shot rang out and rushed over, Drew said.

The little shooter “became a little agitated” and “struck the school employee who was restraining him,” Drew said.

“The firearm was on the floor,” Drew said.

“One spent shell casing, a backpack, a cell phone and a 9mm Taurus firearm was recovered. The firearm was recovered close to the student’s desk, where the shooting occurred,’’ the police chief said.

“The young man was taken into custody and escorted out of the building,” Drew said of the baby-faced shooter.

The chief said authorities contacted the boy’s parents, and they met cops at police headquarters, where the child and his mother were interviewed.

After consulting with child specialists among others, detectives got an “emergency custody order” to have the boy taken to a local hospital for evaluation, Drew said.

The boy is currently under a “temporary detention order” and receiving “treatment at a medical facility,” the chief said.

He will appear before a judge within the next eight days to determine what happens next, Drew said.

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Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called Zwerner a “hero.”

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones
Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones called the shooting a “red flag” for the rest of the country.


Newport News Superintendent George Parker answers questions
Newport News Superintendent George Parker answers questions about the shooting on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.


Drew said it’s unclear whether authorities will attempt to bring charges against any adults in the case.

The police chief said local prosecutors are still determining “where the facts are and what the law supports. … They are still trying to put all of that together.

“The firearm was purchased legally by the child’s mother, and she had the right to do that.

“A key element for us to determine” is how secure the firearm was in the household, he said. “Right now we have some statements, but we want to shore those up.’’

The boy fired the handgun around 2 p.m. just as Zwerner tried to grab the weapon from him, another student’s mom said.

“She was going to confiscate it, and that’s when he shot,” the mother, Brittaney Gregory, told the Washington Post, noting that students had been in a reading group when the boy whipped out the gun from his backpack and pointed it at Zwerner.

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Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew, right, and Newport News Superintendent George Parker answer questions regarding a teacher being shot by an armed 6-year-old at Richneck Elementary School during a press conference at the Newport News Public Schools Administration Building in Newport News, Va., on Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.
Police chief Steve Drew (right) appeared to choke up when describing the hero teacher.

Police respond to a shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Police say a 6-year-old student shot and wounded a teacher at the school during an altercation inside a first-grade classroom.
The boy brought the gun into class at Richneck Elementary School.


Abby Zwerner, 25, of Williamsburg, Virginia, who was shot at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, VA by a 6 year old student.
The teacher made sure to protect every other student in the classroom after being shot.


The teacher gasped, “I’m shot, I’m shot, call 911,” to those around her before she passed out from her injuries, a witness said.

Zwerner was critically wounded but has since been downgraded to serious but stable condition and is “talking with family and friends,” the school said in a statement Monday.

The shooting shocked a country already hardened by gun violence, including at the hands of kids.

Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker III said Monday that he doesn’t know when the school will reopen.

He added that the incident is now making school officials do the unthinkable — consider putting metal detectors even in their elementary schools. 

“I’ll be honest — who would be prepared for a 6-year-old to bring a loaded weapon [into] school and shoot their teacher?” Parker said at the press briefing. “At the elementary level, we primarily focused on an adult or a person entering the building as an active shooter.”

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones has said the shooting should be “a red flag for the country.”

Andrew Block, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, told the Washington Post that the “infancy defense” — in which people under age 7 do not have the ability or mental state to form the intent to commit a crime — would presumably shield the child from prosecution.

Also, “you have to understand the nature of legal proceedings against you and assist in your own defense” to be prosecuted, he said. “There’s no way a 6-year-old would meet that criteria.”

Still, the lawyer said an adult could face misdemeanor charges over the kid getting the gun. Under state law, guns have to be kept away from children under age 14.