NATIONAL NEWS

Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher indicted by grand jury

Apr 10, 2023, 6:00 PM

FILE - Students and police gather outside of Richneck Elementary School after a shooting, Jan. 6, 2...

FILE - Students and police gather outside of Richneck Elementary School after a shooting, Jan. 6, 2023 in Newport News, Va. A Virginia teacher who was shot and seriously wounded by her 6-year-old student filed a lawsuit Monday, April 3, 2023, seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence and of ignoring multiple warnings the day of the shooting that the boy was armed and in a “violent mood.”(Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

(Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP, File)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — A grand jury in Virginia has indicted the mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher on charges of child neglect and failing to secure her handgun in the family’s home, a prosecutor said Monday.

A grand jury sitting in Newport News charged the boy’s 25-year-old mother with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm, Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said in a news release.

The Associated Press isn’t naming the mother to shield the identity of her son.

The boy gun was secured on a top shelf in her closet and had a trigger lock.

Ellenson said Monday that his client plans to turn herself in later this week. He did not comment on the indictments, which were first reported by the Daily Press.

The decision to charge the boy’s mother is the latest development to cascade from the shooting in this shipbuilding city of about 185,000 people near the Chesapeake Bay.

“Every criminal case is unique in its facts, and these facts support these charges, but our investigation into the shooting continues,” Gwynn said.

Gwynn said his office has petitioned the court to empanel a special grand jury to continue an investigation into any security issues that may have contributed to the shooting.

“The safety and security of Newport News students is of utmost importance. The Special Grand Jury will investigate to determine whether additional charges against additional persons are justified by the facts and the law,” Gwynn said.

Diane Toscano, an attorney for Zwerner, said there were “failures in accountability at multiple levels” that led to the shooting.

“Today’s announcement addresses but one of those failures,” Toscano said in a statement, referring to the indictments against the boy’s mother.

Days after the shooting, school officials revealed that administrators at Richneck Elementary had suspected the child may have had a weapon before the shooting occurred. But they didn’t find it despite searching his backpack.

At a subsequent school board meeting, parents and teachers lambasted administrators for what they called a misguided emphasis on attendance over the safety of children and staff. They said students who assaulted classmates and staff often faced few consequences, while Zwerner’s shooting could have been prevented if not for a toxic environment in which teachers’ concerns were ignored.

In a lawsuit filed last week seeking $40 million in damages, Zwerner’s attorneys accused school officials of gross negligence and of ignoring multiple warnings from teachers and other school employees the day of the shooting that the boy was armed and in a “violent mood.”

In the lawsuit, Zwerner’s attorneys said all of the defendants knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the year before when he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.

“Our lawsuit makes clear that we believe the school division violated state law, and we are pursuing this in civil court,” Toscano said Monday.

Virginia’s law on felony child neglect says any parent, guardian or other person responsible for the care of a child “whose willful act or omission in the care of such child was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life” is guilty of a Class 6 felony. The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The misdemeanor charge says it’s against Virginia law to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of fourteen.” That charge is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Police Chief Steve Drew has repeatedly characterized the shooting as “intentional.” He said there was no warning and no struggle before the child pointed the gun at Zwerner and fired one round, striking her in the hand and chest.

Zwerner, 25, hustled her students out of the classroom before being rushed to the hospital, where she stayed for nearly two weeks.

Ellenson told The Associated Press in January that he understood the gun was in the mother’s closet on a shelf well over 6 feet (1.8 meters) high and had a trigger lock that required a key.

The family has said the boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan “that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.” The week of the shooting was the first when a parent was not in class with him, the family said.

The family said in the days after the shooting that the child was placed under hospital care and receiving “the treatment he needs.”

The school board in Newport News fired the district’s superintendent, while Richneck’s assistant principal resigned from the school division. The elementary school’s principal is still employed by the district but no longer holds that position.

Richneck also installed metal detectors before it reopened on Jan. 30, three weeks after the shooting.

___

For more coverage of the shooting: https://apnews.com/hub/newport-news

KSL 5 TV Live

National News

Glynn Simmons served 48 years behind bars before being exonerated. Now, he said he wants to spend t...

Kilee Thomas

‘Don’t ever stop’: After 48 years behind bars, exonerated man hopes to help others clear their names

A man, who spent more time behind bars than anyone who was eventually exonerated in American history, experienced his first full day of freedom on Wednesday.

1 hour ago

FILE - Amazon's Prime Video streaming app is seen on an iPad, March 19, 2018, in Baltimore. Amazon ...

Michelle Chapman, AP Business Writer

Amazon Prime Video will soon come with ads, or a $2.99 monthly charge to dodge them

Amazon’s Prime Video will begin showing adds during shows and movies early next year, joining other streaming services that have added different tiers of subscriptions.

7 hours ago

FILE: poker cards...

Associated Press

GoFundMe refunds donations to poker player who admits to lying about cancer for tournament buy-in

GoFundMe has refunded money to donors after a poker player admitted to lying about a terminal cancer diagnosis to make money for a tournament.

7 hours ago

FILE: U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, makes his ...

Jake Offenhartz, Eric Tucker and Alanna Durkin Richer

Sen. Menendez, wife indicted on bribe charges as probe finds $100,000 in gold bars, prosecutors say

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his wife have been indicted on charges of bribery.

10 hours ago

Follow @KSL5TVLike us on Facebook...

Erin Cox

President Zelenskyy honors Utah’s Honorary Consul to Ukraine, Signs Agreement with UT businessmen during U.S. visit

A Utah man was among those honored by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday at the National Archives.

23 hours ago

FILE: EUGENE, OREGON - JULY 14: The American flag flies above Hayward Field on July 14, 2022 in Eug...

Associated Press

Remains of Michigan soldier killed in Korean War accounted for after 73 years

The remains of an 18-year-old Army corporal from Detroit who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 have been identified.

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Design mockup half in white and half in color of luxury house interior with open plan living room a...

Lighting Design

Lighting Design 101: Learn the Basics

These lighting design basics will help you when designing your home, so you can meet both practical and aesthetic needs.

an antler with large horns int he wilderness...

Three Bear Lodge

Yellowstone in the Fall: A Wildlife Spectacle Worth Witnessing

While most people travel to this park in the summer, late fall in Yellowstone provides a wealth of highlights to make a memorable experience.

a diverse group of students raising their hands in a classroom...

Little Orchard Preschool

6 Benefits of Preschool for Kids

Some of the benefits of preschool for kids include developing independence, curiosity, and learning more about the world.

rodeo contestant on a saddle bronc...

DAYS OF '47 RODEO

Get Ready for the Days of ‘47 Rodeo!

The Days of '47 Rodeo is a series of events everyone in the family can enjoy, with world-class rodeo contestants vying for the gold medal.

Electric LED Lightbulb Change In Light At Home...

Lighting Design

How to Know When to Upgrade Your Lighting

This guide explores indicators that suggest it’s time for a lighting upgrade with tips to make an informed decision when you’re ready to buy. 

Brunette guy in headphones playing games on his desktop computer...

PC Laptops

Looking For a New Computer? Use This Desktop Buying Guide

Choosing a new desktop computer can come with a lot of questions, so we created this desktop buying guide.

Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher indicted by grand jury