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Crime News

Virginia Police Call Wounded Elementary School Teacher A Hero Who Saved Students

Abigail Zwerner, who police say was intentionally shot by her six-year-old student, is being called a hero for getting her students out of the classroom. 

By Constance Johnson
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Police said an elementary school teacher in Newport News, Virginia, intentionally shot by a six-year-old boy, is a hero who saved the lives of her students.

Abigail “Abby” Zwerner, 25, was shot Friday while teaching at Richneck Elementary School, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said Monday at a news conference, according to NBC News.

Police said the boy, whose name is being withheld since he's a minor, was at his desk when he pulled out a handgun, pointed it at Zwerner and fired. The boy brought the gun, a 9-millimeter Taurus handgun from home, and had it in his backpack. The gun was purchased legally by his mother, according to multiple media reports.

After being shot, Zwerner threw up her hand, but the bullet passed through it and struck her chest, according to the New York Times.

Drew said an injured Zwerner escorted at least 16 students out of the classroom. Another employee came into the class and restrained the boy, who Drew described as combative, adding that the child had struck the employee restraining him.

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"The 6-year-old child displayed a firearm, pointed it at her and fired one round," Drew said, according to NBC. "There was no physical struggle or fight. She was providing instruction to her class."

He later added: "She made ... sure that every one of those students was safe. 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."

Zwerner is still in the hospital but is in stable condition.

The marquee at the entrance of Richneck Elementary School

Following the shooting, a statement was released confirming school would be closed for the week "to give our students and families additional time to heal." Additionally, a virtual town hall will be held for parents to share their concerns as they prepare for students to return to class.

While school shootings have become a common occurrence across the nation, the age of the suspect is raising new concerns.

“We’ve addressed metal detection, random searching and all kinds of other things at the secondary level,” George Parker III, the superintendent of Newport News Public Schools, told the New York Times. “I’ll be honest, who would be prepared for a 6-year-old to bring a loaded weapon to school and shoot their teacher?”

Authorities have not identified the six-year-old or his family, but he is being evaluated at a local medical facility. He has been placed under a court ordered detention, according to NBC News.

“This is the 17th shooting by someone under 10 years of age in a school. It’s rare for a 6-year-old to pull the trigger," David Riedman, the founder of the K-12 School Shooting Databasetold NBC News.

He said that these types of shootings can be easily prevented.

“This is a tragic situation because it’s extraordinarily preventable,” Riedman said. “A young student cannot purchase their own gun, which means they have to seek it from an adult. This was a gun that this student could not get on their own and if an adult had properly secured it, the shooting would have never happened.”

It’s also unclear if his parents will face charges. Drew said police are still investigating the incident.

Drew said any charges would be based on “what the facts are and what the law supports,” according to the New York Times.