Richneck School Shooting Update

Six-year-old’s family releases statement on the incident


The shooting at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6 of this year has left the entire world stunned. An unidentified six-year-old student shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, in the hand and chest with his mother’s handgun while Zwerner was giving instruction. The shock of this shooting made international news. The investigation into how and why this shooting happened has been ongoing and recent revelations paint a shocking picture. 


Immediately following the shooting, the student was restrained by staff and then taken by police. His identity will continue to be withheld due to his young age.


 The boy’s family released a statement via their attorney on Jan. 19. “Our heart goes out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her healing in the aftermath of such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children in the school.” 


The family said the firearm, identified as a 9mm Taurus pistol, was “secure” and that they were committed to firearm safety, but did not elaborate on where the gun was the day of the shooting and how the student was able to get it. The family also said the student had an “acute disability” and is currently receiving treatment.


Zwerner was released from the hospital on Jan. 19. A statement to WAVY from her family reads. “She continues her recovery as an outpatient with the support of family, friends and health professionals. The Zwerner family respectfully asks for privacy during this time.” A Go Fund Me campaign was set up by Ms.Zwerner’s sister in order to pay for the medical costs and future living conditions for the wounded teacher. 


There has been a lot of discussion on what to do to improve school safety. Democratic State Delegate Mike Mullin, who represents part of Newport News, proposed security renovations for Richneck and Dutrow Elementary. 


On Jan. 17, the Newport News School Board meeting was packed with dozens of concerned parents, teachers, and citizens. “I want behaviors held accountable, I want to change,” one parent said. 


Many teachers are fed up with their concerns being ignored about the lack of discipline in the school system, “We get hit, punched, cursed, threatened…you aren’t listening to us,” one teacher said. 


Several speakers expressed a desire to see all the leaders of Newport News Public Schools replaced, as they feel their lack of policy has led to incidents like this and previous ones, like the Heritage High School shooting in 2021, happening when it could have been prevented.


Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew has said the investigation is ongoing and that while no charges have currently been filed, it could still happen once witness interviews conclude. 


He also expressed frustration that the school did not inform the NNPD about the fact that the student had been suspected of carrying a firearm before, as well as comments he made to Zwerner saying he wanted, “to light her on fire and watch her die” that went unpunished. 


Richneck’s interim principal Karen Lynch said the school will remain closed until further notice.