Six-year-old shoots teacher in Virginia

Students and police gather outside of Richneck Elementary School after a shooting, Jan 6, 2023 in Newport News, Virginia. (BILLY SCHUERMAN/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT VIA AP)

A 6-year-old boy shot his first-grade schoolteacher during an "altercation", police in Virginia say.

"This was not an accidental shooting," Police Chief Steve Drew said on Friday evening of the shooting that occurred about 2 pm that day. The child and the teacher had an altercation before a single shot from a handgun was fired at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, a city of more than 180,000 people, about 110 kilometers southeast of Richmond. It did not appear that the boy and the teacher knew each other beyond the classroom environment.

The teacher, identified as Abigail Zwerner, 25, suffered "life-threatening injuries" from the shooting, Fox3 Now News quoted authorities as saying. She was in "stable condition and trending in a positive direction", USA Today quoted the Mayor of Newport News, Phillip Jones, as saying on Saturday afternoon.

The boy was taken into police custody, Drew said. No students were injured. School officials had quickly brought all students and teachers to the school's gymnasium and authorities had talked with lawyers about how to proceed.

Police have not said where the boy obtained the firearm or if any adults have been questioned about the shooting. A representative for the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told ABC News that the agency is helping in the investigation by tracing the firearm recovered at the scene.

Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be charged as adults, The Associated Press reported, nor can the boy be placed into the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if he is found guilty of any charges, the news agency said. However, a juvenile judge could place him under the control of the Department of Social Services.

USA Today quoted Andrew Block, a law professor at the University of Virginia and the former director of the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, as saying authorities may file a petition saying the boy needs services such as counseling. It is more likely authorities will focus on providing services to the boy in the interests of rehabilitation rather than punishment, he said.

Sebastian Gonzalez-Hernandez told Fox3 his 6-year-old son was in the class when the shooting happened.

The teacher "screamed at her kids to run away" after being shot, Gonzalez-Hernandez said.

His son heard the gun go off and turned to see Zwerner collapse before he ran from the classroom, Gonzalez-Hernandez said.

The New York Times quoted Trannisha Brown, whose 11-year-old son, Carter Jackson, is a fifth-grader at Richneck, as saying that soon after the shooting she received a call from her son Carter. He took cover on the floor of his classroom with his friends after they heard gunfire.

"It shook me up hearing those kids crying and going frantic. All they knew was that there was a shooter in the school and they didn't know where the shooter was."

She stayed on the phone with her son, trying to comfort him. "You are going to be all right," she recalled telling him.

Agencies contributed to this story.