A six-year-old schoolboy who shot his teacher point-blank in class will not be criminally charged.
The Newport News, Virginia, city attorney said Wednesday that he will not file charges against the boy because “the prospect that a 6-year-old could stand trial is troubling.”
It comes after the boy, whose name has not been identified, opened fire on his first grade elementary teacher, Abby Zwerner, on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School.
The prosecutor says he has yet to decide whether the adults associated with the case will be held criminally responsible. Zwerner has since been released from the hospital after sustaining injuries in the shooting.
“The general consensus is that a 6-year-old child cannot form the criminal intent required to be guilty of aggravated assault,” Newport News Commonwealth Attorney Howard Gwynn said Wednesday in an interview with ABC Norfolk.
Teacher Abby Zwerner was shot at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on January 6.
In a separate interview with nbc News, Gwynn said the “goal of her office is not just to get something done as quickly as possible.” The attorney added that he did not believe the boy could understand the legal system.
The six-year-old attacked his teacher after he stole his mother’s gun from her home, before putting it in his backpack and taking it to Richneck Elementary School.
He opened fire on his teacher at point blank range after she had just finished reading a story to his first grade class.
As the class prepared to go to an art lesson, the father of one of the boys in the class revealed that the young man pulled out the gun, prompting Zwerner to quickly attempt to confiscate it.
His intervention led him to pull the trigger, and the bullet passed through his hand and into his chest.
Police confirmed at the time that the attack was intentional, not accidental.
Despite being hit by the bullet, authorities said Zwerner made sure all the children in her class were safe and out of the classroom before trying to get help.
The police revealed that their first questions when they visited her in the hospital were ‘do you know how my students are doing?’
The ‘combatant’ six-year-old boy was physically detained by another school employee after the terrifying shooting, whom he then punched, police said.
The six-year-old boy was taken into custody at a medical facility, where professionals were able to psychologically evaluate him amid allegations of a history of disturbing behaviour.
After the shooting, the family of the unidentified 6-year-old boy issued a statement insisting the gun was “secured” at the home.
They added that they “have always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”
The boy shot his teacher in Virginia after he stole his mother’s gun from her home before putting it in his backpack and taking it to Richneck Elementary School, pictured.
The 25-year-old first grade teacher survived the attack. She was shot at point blank range and the bullet went through her hand and through her chest.
While no criminal charges have been filed against the boy, the January shooting is expected to result in a lawsuit against the school’s superintendent and assistant principal.
Metal detectors are also scheduled to be introduced after the weapon can be brought onto campus.
According to Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s attorney, the young shooter had a history of disruptive interactions with teachers and other students.
He previously smashed Zwerner’s cellphone, according to a notice of intent to sue, before returning the next day with the gun he would use to shoot his teacher.
Toscano added during a news conference in January that several teachers had alerted school administrators to the boy’s disruptive behavior, including the belief that he had already brought a weapon onto school grounds.
A spokeswoman for the Newport News School District said she had no further comment to offer after the announcement.
The district has previously insisted that it cannot share information about the child or his educational history while the investigation is ongoing.
Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, pictured, said at a news conference in January that several teachers had alerted school administrators to the boy’s problematic behavior before the shooting.
Children at Richneck Elementary School held a candlelight vigil for the beloved teacher after the shooting.
Toscano described the potential lawsuit after the shooting as “totally preventable.”
She argued during the press conference that the school administration should “have taken action when they were aware of the imminent danger.”
“But instead, they didn’t act and shot Abby,” he added.
It is unclear how the boy was able to take his mother’s gun. However, a grandfather of a student at the school claimed that the week before the attack, a boy brought “bright gold bullets” and told his class and teacher that he planned to bring a gun.
It has not been confirmed if the student described by the grandfather is the same one who shot Zwerner.
The announcement that the boy will not be charged comes after Andrew Block, an associate professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, previously predicted that the boy would go free.
“In practice, it would be almost impossible to prosecute a six-year-old, no matter how serious,” he said.
Block noted that the “childhood defense” means that people under the age of seven do not have the mental capacity to form the intent to commit a crime.
“The biggest barrier, assuming the prosecution can overcome that, is that all defendants must be competent to stand trial,” he said.
‘That means you need to understand the nature of the legal proceedings against you and help in your own defense. There’s no way a six-year-old would meet that criteria.
“The juvenile justice system would not be equipped to handle such a young child.”