A 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher earlier this year won’t face charges, the city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, said on Wednesday.
Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News that the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” because of his age and ability to understand the processes and aid in his defense.
Under Virginia law, a 6-year-old can’t be tried as an adult and is too young to be remanded to custody even if convicted.
But, Gwynn said, his office is considering where others can be held criminally liable for the January 6 shooting of Abby Zwerner in her classroom.
“Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible,” Gwynn said. “Once we analyze all the facts, we will charge any person or persons that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt committed a crime.”
Zwerner was seriously wounded in the shooting at Richneck Elementary School and is expected to file a lawsuit, as CrimeOnline previously reported. The shooting has already led to the ouster of the school district’s superintendent and the school’s assistant principal. In a notice of intent to sue, Zwerner’s attorney said that the boy was given a one-day suspension for breaking Zwerner’s cell phone. He returned the next day with a 9mm handgun.
The attorney, Diane Toscano, said at a news conference in January that three teachers went to the administration to say the boy was believed to have a gun that day,”but instead, they failed to act, and Abby was shot.”
Zwerner was hospitalized for two weeks after the shooting.
The boy’s family said in a statement that the firearm was “secured” and that they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.” Investigators have not said how the boy got his hands on the gun, but they did say the boy’s mother legally purchased it.
The family also said the boy has an acute disability and was undergoing a court-ordered treatment at a medical facility.
Gwynn told NBC that charges would be filed, if they are, in consultation with police or through a grand jury. Asked about the difference between this case and another last month in Norfolk — in which charges were quickly filed against a mother whose 6-year-old child brought a gun to school — Gwynn noted that no one was injured in that case, and police moved quickly to charge the mother with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and allowing a child access to a loaded firearm.
“In our case, the police decided to turn the file over to us to make a decision,” Gwynn said, adding that his office received three binders of case file from police. “And we have to make our decision based on our ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a crime occurred.”
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[Featured image: Abby Zwerner/GoFundMe]