Six-year-old Shoots Newport News Teacher

Details continue to come to light about the tragedy at Richneck Elementary School


On Jan. 6, a shooting took place at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. An unidentified six-year-old student used his mother’s handgun to intentionally shoot his first grade teacher, Abby Zwerner. 


The shooting made international headlines and has left the community of Newport News in shock and with many questions, such as “Why did this happen?”, “How could it have been prevented?” and “What do we do now to protect our schools?”


According to Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew and eyewitness reports from students, the still unidentified six-year-old pulled a gun from his backpack as Ms. Zwerner was giving instruction. Ms.Zwerner attempted to confiscate the gun when the student pulled the trigger. She was shot in the hand and chest by the bullet. Ms.Zwerner got her class safely out of the room before she herself escaped. 


A school employee restrained the student with the gun and police arrived to take the student into custody. Zwerner, only 25 years old, suffered life threatening injuries but is expected to survive. 


Parents were shaken and many feared the worst after previous acts of gun violence at elementary schools in Uvalde and Newton. Several parents gave statements on the matter expressing how horrified they were and sharing their disbelief in learning the gunman’s age. 


One parent, a British national, was outraged about the gun violence in the US hitting so close to home and told WTKR, “The statistics in the U.K., for crime, is zero for guns. Why is it so bad [in the U.S.]? Why is there a 7-year-old with a bloody gun? Come on, think about it! Let’s do something.” 


The Newport News School Board has launched an internal investigation of its own to go along with the criminal one the NNPD has launched. They revealed at a town hall that the student’s backpack had been searched prior to the shooting and the administration had been aware. The revelation that the student’s backpack had been searched has many wondering how the shooting still happened. 


On Jan. 12, the Newport News School Board approved putting metal detectors at all Newport News schools, they also announced that “administrative changes” have been proposed as well. 


Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker III said in a statement, “We are deeply saddened about the incident that occurred at Richneck Elementary on Friday, January 6, 2023. Our thoughts and prayers are with the faculty member who was injured, her family, and the entire Richneck school community. The safety of our students and staff is and always will be our first priority.” 

Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones said, “It is almost impossible to wrap our minds around the fact that a 6 year old 1st grader brought a loaded handgun to school and shot a teacher; however, this is exactly what our community is grappling with today.” 


Mayor Jones also hailed the work of the police department for their quick response and promised to do all in his ability to help lower gun violence in the city. Governor Glenn Youngkin also sent his condolences and offered his administration’s services with the investigation. Chief Drew has promised a full investigation into what happened and will continuously update the public on it. 

If you or a loved one has been personally affected by this incident. Call the helpline at 757-788-0635 or go to the NNPS website for more information.