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'Richneck Strong' | Community shows support at CNU men's basketball game

Community members and some former co-workers of Abby Zwerner attended the basketball to help show support for the school before students return to classes Monday.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — In Newport News, the community is rallying behind families and staff of Richneck Elementary School, three weeks after police say a 6-year-old shot his first-grade teacher. 

The Christopher Newport University men’s basketball team dedicated their game against Salisbury University to Richneck. It’s the teams first home game since the shooting.

The stadium at Freeman Center was flooded with fans on Saturday; some in CNU colors, but many in green in honor of Richneck Elementary’s school color.

Some fans even bought t-shirts touting the words “Richneck Strong,” with all proceeds set to go to Abby Zwerner.

Credit: WVEC

The Captain's coach, John Krikorian, came up with the idea. He said the shooting at Richneck Elementary “hit close to home.”

He’s not the only one touched by the tragedy.

“When I initially heard, I was devastated,” Troy Latuch said at Saturday's game.

Latuch was the principal at Richneck Elementary School from 2015 to 2021. He said he hired Zwerner before leaving the school to lead Hilton Elementary in Newport News.

“I just really enjoyed her personality and the way she carried herself. I thought she’d be a great fit for Richneck or Newport News Public Schools,” Latuch said.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called Abby Zwerner a hero. Even after the shooting, he said Zwerner got her students to safety.

The 25-year-old teacher’s actions that day come as no surprise to the people who worked with her.

“I would’ve expected her to act that way, absolutely. I think most teachers would’ve acted that way. So, I was very proud of how she handled herself in that situation,” Latuch said.

“She was that type of a selfless person that she would want to help her children before anything else,” Karen Jarvis said.

Jarvis said she filled in as a substitute for Zwerner’s class many times. She had nothing but kind words to describe her.

“Very enthusiastic, always wanted to do what was best for her children,” Jarvis said.

After nearly a month off, students will return to classrooms Monday.

And while the transition may be difficult, one thing is for sure: they've got the community behind them.

"I just hope that with time, they will heal and go back to the wonderful atmosphere that Richneck had in the first place," Jarvis said.

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