Family: Boy, 6, Who Shot Teacher Has 'Acute Disability'

Handgun was locked and kept out of reach, attorney for Virginia boy's mother says
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 20, 2023 4:58 AM CST
Family: Boy, 6, Who Shot Teacher Has 'Acute Disability'
Willow Crawford, left, and her older sister Ava, right, join friend Kaylynn Vestre, center, in expressing their support for Richneck Elementary School first-grade teacher Abby Zwerner during a candlelight vigil in her honor in Newport News, Va., Monday, Jan. 9, 2023.   (AP Photo/John C. Clark)

The family of a 6-year-old boy who shot a teacher at an elementary school in Virginia earlier this month has an "acute disability" and was under a specialized care plan, his family said Thursday. "The week of the shooting was the first week when we were not in class with him," the family said in its first statement since the Jan. 6 shooting. "We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives." They said the gun the boy used to shoot a teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News had been secured and the family "has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children," the Virginian-Pilot reports.

James Ellison, an attorney representing the boy's mother, says there was a safety lock on the firearm and the mother "has no idea" how the boy got the gun. "It was out of reach of the child," he says. "It was on the top shelf of a closet." Trigger locks need to be unlocked with a key or a combination and it's not clear how the child was able to use the weapon. Nobody has been charged in the case, but the investigation is ongoing. Police say the gun was legally owned by the mother. Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor to leave a gun somewhere where it can be accessed by a child under 14, the New York Times notes. The family's statement said they are praying for teacher Abigail Zwerner as well as their son, who "has been under hospital care and receiving the treatment he needs."

City spokesperson Kim Lee says the boy is currently "in the custody of the Newport News Department of Human Services." In their statement, the family said Zwerner "worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son." The 25-year-old teacher, who was shot in the chest after a bullet passed through her hand, was released from the hospital earlier this week, CNN reports. She was shot while teaching her first-grade class. School district officials say they received a tip that the boy might have brought a gun to school, but the 9mm handgun wasn't found when his backpack was searched. (Zwerner has been hailed as a hero for her actions after the shooting.)

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