Family of 6-year-old boy who allegedly shot his teacher gives statement

(CNN) — The family of the 6-year-old Virginia boy who allegedly shot his first-grade teacher at a Newport News elementary school nearly two weeks ago issued a statement for the first time since the incident, praising the teacher and saying their son has an acute disability.

“Our hearts go out to our son’s teacher and we pray for his recovery after such an unimaginable tragedy as he selflessly served our son and the children at school,” said the statement Thursday, published by attorney James Ellenson. .

The statement comes the same day officials announced that Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner — who was injured in the classroom during the Jan. 6 shooting — has been released from the hospital.

Zwerner, 25, was shot in the chest after the bullet passed through one of his hands, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew told reporters last week. Police have not identified the first grader they say was responsible.

Boy recounts horror after Virginia school shooting 1:39

In the statement, the family said the gun allegedly used was secured before the shooting. They also said that a family member used to go to class with him, but not in the week of the incident.

“Our son is acutely disabled and was under a care plan at school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day,” the family’s statement said. “We will mourn our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”

The gun was legally purchased by the boy’s mother, who could face charges at the end of the investigation, according to Drew. The boy brought the gun to school in his backpack, she said. It is unclear how the boy accessed the gun.

Under Virginia law, it is a misdemeanor for an adult to leave a firearm loaded and unsecured in such a way as to endanger a child under the age of 14. The statute also makes it illegal for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.

Ellenson did not comment on CNN’s follow-up questions about how the gun was secured and how the boy was able to access it on the day of the shooting. The statement says the family has been cooperating with investigators.

The family’s statement also praised Zwerner.

“She has worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we searched for the best education and learning environment for our son,” the family said. “We thank her for her courage, her grace and her sacrifice. We grieve along with all other teachers, families, and administrators at how this horrific incident has impacted them, our community, and the nation.”

The Newport News Public School district said Thursday that it could not release any additional information about the shooting at this time.

The teacher was released earlier this week

Riverside Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Angela Arcieri said Zwerner was released earlier this week.

“(Zwerner) continues her recovery as an outpatient with the support of family, friends and healthcare professionals. The Zwerner family respectfully requests privacy during this time,” Arcieri wrote in an emailed statement.

Police described the shooting, which initially left Zwerner seriously injured, as “intentional.”

Zwerner was praised for her heroic actions in keeping her students safe after she was shot. She made sure all of her students left the classroom, Drew said, and she was the last person to leave her room before heading to the administration office.

The school’s classrooms are closed until at least January 30, when the next semester begins. Officials have “arranged a time for Richneck families to begin transitioning students back into the building” next Wednesday, according to the school’s website.

The school is hosting emotional support services on Thursdays and Fridays for students and families.

Richneck’s shooting was the first of 2023 at a US school, according to a CNN analysis. In 2022, there were 60 shootings in schools of elementary, middle and high school education, CNN analysis shows.

Still, school shootings by such a young suspect are very rare. According to the School Shooting Database, which tracks shootings at American educational institutions since 1970, there have been three other cases in which the suspect was as young as 6: in 2000, 2011 and 2021.

CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.

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