Newport News, VA – School administrators admitted that Richneck Elementary School knew the first grader who shot his teacher had been accused of having a gun in his backpack earlier that day and had searched the little boy’s bag but not found the weapon.
Newport News police said at a press conference on Jan. 13 that law enforcement was not notified about the tip the school had been given about the six year old having a gun before he shot his first grade teacher hours later, the Associated Press reported.
Newport News Police Department spokesperson Kelly King said in an email that the police department learned through their investigation after the teacher was shot that a school employee had been notified of a possible gun on campus before the Jan. 6 elementary school shooting.
“The Newport News Police Department was not notified of this information prior to the incident,” King wrote.
Michelle Price, a spokeswoman for the Newport News school district, told reporters that the six-year-old boy’s backpack was searched after the school got the tip, the Associated Press reported.
Price refused to comment on the Newport News police’s statement about the school’s failure to notify law enforcement.
She said that when school officials receive a tip about a potential weapon or other contraband on a school campus, if they get information about who has the weapon or where it may be, “that’s where the search starts,” the Associated Press reported.
“I’m not able to comment on whether other searches may have occurred, except for the fact that the superintendent has shared that the student’s backpack was searched and nothing was found at the time,” Price explained.
She said she had not been told where school officials think the gun was hidden when they searched the boy’s bag, WRC reported.
“That probably is definitely part of our internal investigation and the police investigation, but nothing about that has been released publicly,” Price said.
Newport News Schools Superintendent Dr. George Parker revealed during a livestream for Richneck Elementary School parents on Jan. 12 that there was a report that the boy might have had a weapon on him when he got to school Friday morning, WAVY reported.
“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” Parker said.
The superintendent said that there would be administrative changes made in all of the schools in the district but he didn’t say specifically what those changes would be, WAVY reported.
He also told parents that he had been in touch with Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, for advice on how to proceed.
“We’ve been in contact with Uvalde in Texas who have been very gracious in communicating with us,” Parker told the parents.
He said that after three shootings in the school district in three years, the superintendent said Newport News Public Schools would change the way the district handles security, WAVY reported.
Parker said schools across the district would be getting high-tech metal detectors and he’s planning to require all Richneck students to carry clear plastic backpacks that will be provided by the school district.
Authorities responded to Richneck Elementary School, located in the 200-block of Tyner Drive, off Jefferson Avenue, just after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, for a report of a shooting inside a classroom, WAVY reported.
Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew told reporters at a press briefing shortly after the incident that a six-year-old boy was involved in “an altercation” with his teacher before he pulled out a handgun and shot her, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
“This was not an accidental shooting,” Chief Drew said.
The police chief said that one round was fired, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The six-year-old shooter was taken into custody at the scene.
No students were injured during the incident, according to police.
The teacher who was shot has been identified as 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, WRC reported.
She was shot in the chest and her injuries were considered to be life-threatening.
However, authorities said on Friday that Zwerner’s medical condition had improved to “stable,” WRC reported.
Another six-year-old student who was in the classroom when her teacher was shot told reporters that her classmate shot their teacher “on purpose,” The Virginian-Pilot reported.
Chief Drew said the child used his mother’s gun to shoot his teacher, WRC reported.
The police chief said the gun had been purchased legally but it wasn’t yet known how the six year old gained access to the weapon that he used to shoot his first grade teacher.
Authorities said the investigation is active and more information will be released as investigators determine what led up to the tragedy at the Virginia elementary school, WRC reported.