An elementary school in Virginia will be closed this week to give students “time to heal” after a 6-year-old boy shot and wounded a teacher there Friday, the school announced.
Less than a week into the new year, officers stormed the Rickneck Elementary campus in Newport News – outside of which a “Happy New Year” sign was still displayed – and took the child into custody.
The boy shot the teacher in the classroom and it was “not an accidental shooting,” Police Chief Steve Drew said. The boy remained in police custody till Friday.
Drew said there was an altercation between the teacher and the student who had the weapon before shots were fired. One round was fired and no other students were involved, he added.
“We are in contact with our commonwealth’s attorney and several other agencies to ensure that this young man receives the best services possible,” Drew said Friday.
The teacher, whose injuries were initially described as life-threatening, was listed in stable condition as of Saturday, according to the Newport News Police Department.
The teacher was first identified as Abby Zwirner by her alma mater, James Madison University.
Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker said the elementary school had an emergency plan that allowed for immediate medical care for the injured teacher.
“While no amount of planning can guarantee that a tragedy like this will not happen; please know that our collective efforts and preparation resulted in immediate medical care for our faculty members, no injuries to students, and a safe and efficient reunification for our families and students. resulted in the process,” Parker said.
As the investigation continues and police investigate how the young boy used the gun and what led to the shooting, community members are grappling with what happened.
“It’s a very difficult thing to process,” Newport News Mayor Philip Jones told CNN on Sunday. “The fact that we have a 6-year-old who has the ability to bring a gun to school and hurt his teacher — something we’re still grappling with.”
The mayor would not comment about the child’s family or their involvement in the investigation.
“There are a lot of questions that we have to answer as a community,” the mayor added. “How was a 6-year-old child able to possess a gun, knowingly know how to use it … Those responsible will be held accountable. I can promise that. ”
School shootings in the US have become more common than in any other country. According to a CNN analysis, in 2022, there were at least 60 shootings in K-12 schools.
After Friday’s shooting, students at the school described a harrowing moment called a lockdown. “We were doing math … an announcer came in, she was like, ‘Lockdown, I repeat lockdown,'” said fifth-grader Nova Jones, who was in a separate classroom.
“I was scared … it was like my first lockdown and I didn’t know what to do, so I hid under my desk like everyone else.”
Nova initially believed there was a man with a gun at the school, she said in a CNN interview with her and her mother.
“I was thinking … a man was going to shoot us,” Novah said.
Parents rushed to the scene as news of the shooting spread, a nightmare families of students in many other American schools are living through.
When Mark Anthony Garcia learned of the shooting, he rushed to the school, where his son is in second grade.
“There were police helicopters everywhere out there, traffic jams,” he told “CNN This Morning” on Monday. “Then there were parked cars and people running around a 2-mile radius, actually trying to get to the scene.”
Garcia’s son, Mark Jr., said his teacher heard the gunshots and sent his class back to their classroom, “and then when we got there, we were all quiet.”
“Two people were crying,” he said. “And when the police came, we were marching to the gym.”
After the shooting, all students at the school were taken out of their classrooms along with their teachers and taken to the gymnasium, where they were accompanied by counselors and officers, the police chief told CNN affiliate WTKR.
Although she was able to return home safely, Novah said she had trouble sleeping that night, worried that “he still had the gun and was going to come to my house.”
“I love flashbacks,” Novah said.
Richneck Elementary said in an update on its website that licensed therapists are available to help parents with tips on talking to children, counseling services and resource referrals.