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Lawyer: Gun used by 6-year-old who shot Richneck Elementary teacher Abigail Zwerner was 'secured'

The family of a 6-year-old boy who shot and wounded his teacher in Newport News said the gun he used had been secured.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The family of a 6-year-old boy who shot and wounded his teacher in Newport News, Virginia said Thursday that the gun he used had been "secured."

The family's statement was released by an attorney and did not elaborate further on where the 9mm handgun was kept. The family also was not identified.

"Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children," the statement said. "The firearm our son accessed was secured."

The family also said that the boy "suffers from an acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day."

The family said the week of the shooting "was the first week when we were not in class with him. We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives."

The statement was released through the office of Newport News-based attorney James S. Ellenson.

When asked by 13News Now if Newport News Public Schools could confirm the statement's claims that the boy had a disability and was usually accompanied by a parent, a spokesperson said, "In compliance with FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, NNPS cannot release student educational record information."

The Newport News Police Department also declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

The shooting occurred on Jan. 6 as teacher Abigail Zwerner taught her first-grade class at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.

The bullet pierced Zwerner's hand and struck her chest. The 25-year-old teacher hustled her students out of the classroom before being rushed to the hospital.

Newport News police had said that the 6-year-old's mother legally purchased the gun but that it was unclear how her son gained access to it.

For other Richneck parents, the family's statement raised new concerns. 

"If it was secure, how did he get it?" asked parent Mark Garcia. "How did he get through the school and how did he know to keep it on him, because they were going to check his backpack? And if so, where was the parent that supposed to be with him to walk him into the school?" 

Garcia, who said he is former military, said he questions the words of the child's family and wonders why a guardian did not accompany him to school if required by the boy's alleged care plan. 

"The parents in this situation or whoever took the child to school that day, should be up here talking and letting us know where that child was and how he got that weapon," said Garcia. "The fault of the parents, policy and lack of security, all starts with the parents in this situation." 

Desiree Yvette's daughter is in Ms. Zwerner's first-grade class and witnessed the shooting. 

Yvette said she's never heard of another adult, aside from school staff, being present in her daughter's classroom. 

"If that was something that was happening in that classroom, all parents of the classroom should have been notified being that there is another parent in that classroom," said Yvette, who also claimed she was denied similar requests to sit in on her child's class following bullying concerns in November 2022.  

Yvette said she is unlikely to allow her daughter back to Richneck Elementary and calls for more transparency and community from school administrators. 

She and an anonymous parent of a second-grade student at Richneck spoke to 13News Now over the phone on Thursday. 

They both said their children are struggling to process the situation. 

"My second-grade daughter said, 'Mom, they don't love us. They don't want us to be safe,'" a parent said. "They're not ready to go back to school. They're not good."

A Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to a child under 14, a misdemeanor crime punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence and a $2,500 fine. 

No charges have been brought against the mother so far.

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