An Administrator Searched 6-Year-Old’s Backpack Hours Before He Shot 1st Grade Teacher, Superintendent Says

Officials at a Newport News elementary school searched a 6-year-old student’s backpack but found nothing alarming hours before the boy shot his first-grade teacher during an altercation in her classroom.

The teacher — 25-year-old Abby Zwerner — rushed her students out of the classroom after she was shot on the afternoon of January 6, then made her way to the school office before collapsing. She was rushed to the hospital in grave condition but is now stable, as CrimeOnline has reported.

At a town jall on Thursday with parents of Richneck Elementary School, Newport News School Superintendent George Parker said officials had gotten a report that the boy may have had a weapon on him when he arrived at school that morning, WAVY reported.

“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” Parker said.

The boy’s backpack was searched, Parker said, but no weapon was found. Two and a half hours later, the shooting took place, and officials found a 9mm handgun in the boy’s possession, the Washington Post reported.

The town jall was for parents only, but a parent shared  the access link with WAVY.

During a news comference earlier on Thursday, school board chair Lisa Surles-Law said the district had just gotten approval to add permanent metal detectors in all the district’s schools and planned to start with Richneck.

Parker, who previously opposed permanent metal detectors after a 2021 shooting at Heritage High School, said he was reevaluating his position.

The school board said that several administrative changes were being made in the wake of last week’s shooting and that Parker would discuss those at the town hall, but he did not provide any details about what those changes were, WAVY said.

Parker did say that Richneck was adding some security construction that included a wall and doors to the 2nd grade hallway and a new front entrance and said he was considering requiring students to use clear plastic backpacks that would be bought by the school district.

Parker also said that no decision has been made about when students can return to class at Richneck.

“We want to make sure that we have measures in place that will allow our faculty and our students and you our parents to feel confident that your student is entering a safe building on a daily basis,” he said.

Investigators and prosecutors are still working to determine how to proceed in the case. Newport News police said that the boy’s mother bought the gun legally in York County, Virginia, and it remains possible that she could be charged.

For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast.

[Featured image: Abby Zwerner/GoFundMe]