Breaking News
More () »

Legal expert weighs in on possible charges for Richneck Elementary School student

An expert says a young child can be charged, but that's not always a likely outcome.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The shooting involving a 6-year-old student in Newport News shocked many across the community and nation. 

“When you’re talking about a first grader…the kind of capacity that they have to understand things and their experience level and maturity is not there,” Virginia Beach Attorney Ed Booth said.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said a student shot and injured 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary.

Police said they took the 6-year-old into custody after the shooting. 

Now, questions loom around what could come next. 

“While you technically can charge a six-year-old, practically speaking that’s not a likely outcome,” Booth said.

Booth said the focus of Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court is to rehabilitate rather than incriminate. He said the court has a number of tools to determine if the child is in need of services.

“Basically all sorts of things that allow the court to keep an eye out on the child … and prevent similar sorts of problems in the future,” he said.

Booth said the court can find that a child is in need of services through what's called a CHINS petition.

"Effectively that means that that child is going to be in control of the court, frequent court dates and whole range of services that area available that can be ordered by the court," Booth said. 

"So, that's a different avenue than a straightforward criminal prosecution because the fact of the matter is there's no such thing as a straightforward prosecution for a child of that age."

He said a child of this age cannot be tried as an adult if charged and would be considered too young to go to a detention facility. 

Booth said depending on where the investigation leads, it’s possible the parents or guardians of the child could face charges.

Before You Leave, Check This Out