Newport News prosecutor says 6-year-old who shot teacher won’t face criminal charges

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 6:21 PM EST
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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WWBT) -The Newport News city prosecutor said Wednesday that he is not seeking criminal charges against the 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher in January.

NBC News reports Attorney Howard Gwynn said the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” given that a young child wouldn’t have the competency to understand the legal system and what a charge means or adequately help an attorney in his case.

Gwynn says he hasn’t decided yet whether any adults, in this case, could be held criminally liable.

Under Virginia law, a 6-year-old could be criminally charged theoretically, but Gwynn says he doesn’t believe there is a legal basis to charge the boy. Instead, the attorney wants to focus on others.

On Jan. 6, Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner was shot by a student in the middle of class. The child managed to sneak the gun into the school and hid it in his backpack.

According to Zwerner’s lawyer, the student has behavioral issues and has a pattern of concerning interactions with school staff and other students.

In the wake of the shooting, the family of the 6-year-old said in a statement that the weapon was “secured” and they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”

The family also said the boy has an acute disability and received the “treatment he needs” under court-ordered temporary detention at a medical facility.