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'I know she is a hero' | Newport News Police Chief discusses Richneck shooting

In an interview with ABC News, Police Chief Steve Drew said amidst all the questions, he knows one thing for certain-- Abby Zwerner is a hero.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Friday marks one week since the shooting at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, where police say a 6-year-old boy intentionally shot his teacher.

13News Now has been following this case since day one. Here are the biggest developments since then:

Richneck Elementary is under new leadership. A school spokesperson tells us the Extended Learning Supervisor, Karen Lynch, is now taking over some of the responsibilities of the principal.

  • Classes at Richneck have been canceled for next week. There is still no set return date for students and staff.
  • As for the day of the shooting, Superintendent Dr. George Parker, III, confirmed the student arrived late to school that morning. He had his backpack searched after the school got a tip he may have had a weapon, but nothing was found inside.
  • Now school division leaders are stepping up security across the division. They've secured funding for 90 new metal detectors. Every student, teacher and staff member will have to walk through them every day.

Police Chief Steve Drew sat down for an interview with ABC News, where he hailed 25-year-old Abby Zwerner as a hero.

Drew said when he was first notified, he thought there was an active shooter.

It was only when he arrived at the school he learned the suspect was just 6 years old.

"How can a 6-year-old contemplate obtaining a firearm, bringing it to school, pulling it out at school and shooting a teacher? I just can’t comprehend that. I don’t know if I ever want to be able to comprehend that," Drew said.

Drew maintains there was no fight or argument before the boy fired his mother’s 9mm handgun.

He said Zwerner was in the front of the room teaching.

"After recess, it was pointed and fired," Drew said.

Drew recounts how even after she was shot, Zwerner’s mind was only on her students.

"She takes several steps down the hall and then she stops. She turns around and looks back to make sure that all of her students are safe," Drew said, choking up. "Her actions last Friday were some of the most heroic I’ve ever seen."

Another staff member ran into the classroom when they heard the commotion and restrained the boy until officers arrived. The boy hit her while she tried to hold him down.

From the beginning, Drew has repeatedly said this was not an accidental shooting. Expanding on that, he said they know based on statements from the boy and his mother.

"'Shocking' is a great word," he said.

Drew said reporters have been asking how a child that young would even know how to use a gun. 

"That question stumped me," he replied.

He said once investigators look through school records of any past behavioral issues with the student, determine if there is any history with child protective services and interview the children who were in the classroom, that will all paint a better picture of what happened.

"I don’t know that I ever thought that we’d be interviewing first graders with the help of a psychologist. It just... you have to take a step back," he said.

He said they are still working to determine how the boy got the gun, if it was locked up in the home, and what the boy said to Zwerner, if anything, before he shot her.

He said the night of the shooting, the child was taken to a facility where he got treatment. An emergency protective order was initiated and an emergency detention order was obtained. Drew said the child will go before a judge who will decide if they want to extend the detention order if the child will be placed somewhere.

"I totally understand the frustration that parents have, that teachers have, that city residents have, 'Why hasn't something been done at this point?' We are going to do a thorough and complete investigation. I don't want to rush through anything and skip steps." he said. "[The Commonwealth Attorney] will determine through the facts that we have, the evidence that we're able to lay before him and what the law is that will either support or not support any additional charges... against the parents."

Drew said while there are still questions as to what will happen to the 6-year-old, he said he knows one thing for certain.

"In my opinion, [Zwerner] saved lives that day," he said. "I think she is a hero. I will tell you this, I know she is a hero."


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