A first grade teacher from Newport News, Virginia is recovering this week after being allegedly shot in the chest by a student last Friday. As officials continue to uncover details of the harrowing encounter, the teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, is being hailed a hero.
Zwerner was teaching her class of first-graders at Richneck Elementary School on Friday, when one of her 6-year-old students allegedly pulled out a firearm, pointed it at her, and shot her. According to police chief Drew Scott, the bullet went through Zwerner’s hand and hit her in the chest.
Despite being shot, Zwerner was able to evacuate her entire classroom to safety—about 16 students— before seeking care for herself.
Security cameras show students running out of the classroom to a nearby location before Zwerner exited the classroom. She was the last one to leave.
“She made sure that every one of those kids was out of that room and she was the last one to leave,” Scott said in a joint school board and police press conference Monday, adding that while the shooting seemed targeted toward the teacher, it’s hard to know what else could have happened, as the weapon had additional rounds in it.
“I believe the teacher saved lives on Friday,” Scott said.
Zwermer is in stable condition and is now recovering at a nearby hospital. According to the police chief, she only had one question for local authorities:
“Do you know how my students are?”
An “Unprecedented Situation”
When police arrived on scene, the 6-year-old suspect was being restrained by another faculty member in the classroom. Officials say the child obtained the firearm, from his home. His mother had legally purchased the gun.
The suspect was taken into police custody immediately following the shooting and is currently under a court-ordered detention. He’s being evaluated at a local medical facility and has 96 hours to appear before a judge. Due to his age however, the police chief was unsure as to what charges would be brought against the child.
“This is an unprecedented situation that we’re dealing with,” he said Monday. “We’re dealing with a 6-year-old.”
All 50 states, including Virginia, have a juvenile justice system. But NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos it’s highly unlikely the boy will be charged, even in juvenile court.
“While theoretically, they could charge him with a crime, they’d have to prove that a 6-year-old was capable of forming the intent for attempted murder,” Cevallos said. He added the boy is also unlikely to be charged because he is not competent to stand trial because “he can’t assist his attorney and doesn’t understand what’s going on.”
While the child is unlikely to be charged, his parents could be. Investigators will determine whether they properly secured the weapon, and just how a 6-year-old came to possess it.
A Teacher, A Hero
As for Zwerner, the 25-year-old is expected to make a full recovery.
A GoFundMe page organized by Zwerner’s twin sister has raised about $70,000 since it was created Monday.
“Abby, my family, and I are humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received in the days following the event,” Zwerner’s sister wrote. “Thank you for all of the prayers, well wishes, and words of kindness.”