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Chief Drew offers update on where Richneck investigation stands

No charges have been brought forward, nearly two weeks since a shooting inside Richneck Elementary. That could change, depending on the course of the investigation.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Nearly two weeks have passed since the shooting at Richneck Elementary in Newport News, and no criminal charges have been brought forward in the case. 

However, that could change, depending on the course of an ongoing police investigation.

Police accuse a 6-year-old student of intentionally shooting his teacher, 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, in the middle of class.

"January 6, 2023, was a tragic day for our community and for our city," said Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew. 

"It is unreal. It's unprecedented for us in Newport News," Drew added. "We're going to do our due diligence, and we're going to do a thorough investigation."

During a town hall meeting last week, Superintendent Dr. George Parker III told Richneck families last week, at least one administrator knew about a tip warning that the 6-year-old student may have been carrying a weapon.

Hours before the shooting, Parker said someone searched the child's backpack.

"The boy was able to locate that firearm, placed it in a backpack. He took that firearm to school. He was taken to school by family members. At some point, he removed that firearm and had it on his person," Drew said, as part of findings in their investigation so far.

In a set of virtual question-and-answer sessions with the public on Wednesday, Drew said no one informed his department about the report of a possible weapon.

While he didn't want to lay blame or point fingers, Drew mentioned wanting to have known about the tip. 

"Any time there is a threat of a school shooting or incident or someone may get hurt, I would rather have the information right away," said Drew. 

Police clarified the handgun used in the shooting is legally owned by the child's mother. 

Drew said no one has been charged in connection to the Richneck shooting, in large part because of witness interviews in progress.

"Most of those interviews, I think will be done by the end of this week, if not, by the middle of next week," Drew said.

The list includes first graders who were in the classroom where it all happened.

"What did they see, if they're able to talk about it? The psychologist is much more well versed at interviewing children and talking to them about situations like that," the chief said. 

Investigators are also gathering relevant records, if there are any, from Child Protective Services.

"We've also asked the schools for records they might have of behavioral or threats or anything like that if there are any. Not saying there are any on either side," Drew said. 

The chief also mentioned the 6-year-old suspect has faced a judge, but he could not disclose where the boy is currently located. 

13News Now asked a spokeswoman for Newport News Public Schools whether police should have been notified about the tip of a possible weapon on the Richneck student.

She did not answer that question directly but did respond by listing the current protocol. "Searches may be done at the direction of the principal or designee to help maintain a safe school environment," the spokeswoman wrote to 13News Now, in part. 

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