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Prosecutor: Law doesn't support charging 6-year-old who shot teacher at Richneck

"The general consensus is that a 6-year-old cannot form the requisite criminal intent to be guilty of an aggravated assault," Newport News CA Howard Gwynn said.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney says he believes the law does not support charging the 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in January.

The Jan. 6 shooting happened at Richneck Elementary School and left teacher Abby Zwerner seriously hurt. In the weeks since Zwerner has been released from the hospital and is recovering, according to her lawyer. 

Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn said Wednesday that he does not believe the law supports charging a 6-year-old child with aggravated assault.

"The general consensus [among experts across the country] is that a 6-year-old cannot form the requisite criminal intent to be guilty of an aggravated assault," Gwynn said over the phone with 13News Now. "I think it is problematical to assume that a 6-year-old understands the criminal justice system enough to be competent to stand trial."

Several parents with children in the school division wrote to 13News Now frustrated by Gwynn's statements, saying potentially no charges against the boy sets a bad example.

However, some parents like Rebecca Reese say they are okay with and unsurprised by the top prosecutor's sentiments.

"A 6-year-old can only be responsible for so much mentally," said Reese. 

She wonders whether adults with ties to the situation could be accused of any crime. 

"I believe that they've been very slow in reacting to holding the parents responsible, specifically the mother because it was her weapon," said Reese. 

A lawyer for the boy's family previously issued a statement, claiming "the firearm [he] accessed was secured."

Gwynn says his office still needs to review Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew's entire investigative report before he chooses whether or not to charge anyone else in this case.

Gwynn says he received three binders from Chief Drew on the investigation and still has to review "hours and hours of police body camera footage." 

"And once all that information is viewed and we understand the facts fully, then we will apply the facts to the law and if the law supports charging persons with criminal offenses that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt, then those persons will be charged," Gwynn said.

Gwynn said at this point, his office is not charging anyone until he finishes his review.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with 13News Now last month, Chief Drew said he is not making any recommendations on charges and is leaving every bit of determination on that part to Gwynn. 

On Thursday morning, the Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney's Office released a statement saying it won't comment on the case any further until its work is complete.

"In spite of the national attention that this incomprehensible act has brought to our city, our objective is the same as it has always been — to be thorough, to be objective, and to apply the law to the facts fairly and impartially," the statement read. "And after that analysis is done, our objective is to charge any person with any crimes that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt."

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