6-year-old who shot Virginia teacher Abby Zwerner once choked another teacher
The earlier alleged attack was detailed in a notice of claim alerting the Newport News school district that the shot and wounded teacher, Abby Zwerner, intended to sue.
The 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot his first-grade teacher had a history of abusing others at school — and even choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe,” according to a legal filing.
The other teacher who said she’d been choked also confirmed the alleged 2021 attack, saying she reported it at the time to school officials without getting the support she’d expected.
She told the Associated Press that the boy had come up behind her as she sat in a chair in the front of the class — then locked his forearms in front of her neck, pulling back and down, hard.
A teaching assistant had to pull the youngster off, she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because she fears potential retaliation from the school district.
“I didn’t feel safe the rest of the year because I knew if they didn’t protect me when he choked me and I couldn’t breathe, then they wouldn’t protect me, my kids or my colleagues if he did something not as harmful,” she said.
The boy — who is not being identified because of his age — was later moved into another class in another school.
But it was just part of his troubling behavior, which included constantly cursing at staff and teachers and trying to whip students with his belt, according to the notice filed by Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano.
Two days before the Jan. 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School, the boy had an angry interaction with Zwerner in which he “slammed” down her cellphone and broke it, according to the court papers.
He was given a one-day suspension — but when he returned to class the following day, he pulled a 9mm handgun out of his pocket and shot Zwerner while she sat at a reading table, the notice says.
“It is a miracle that more people were not harmed,” Toscano wrote in the notice.
“The shooter spent his entire recess with a gun in his pocket, a gun that was loaded and ready to fire … while lots of first-grade students played.”
The legal notice fleshed out earlier allegations of negligence at Richneck, with a detailed timeline of how Zwerner, three other teachers and a guidance counselor aired concerns about the boy having a gun.
It said that if then-Assistant Principal Ebony Parker “had acted on the information she was provided, then the shooting of Ms. Zwerner would not have happened.”
Zwerner went to Parker’s office at about 11:15 a.m. “to advise her that the shooter seemed more ‘off’ than usual and was in a violent mood,” claimed the filing.
It also said the boy had threatened to beat up a kindergarten student and “angrily stared down” the school security officer in the lunch room.
At about 11:45 a.m., another teacher learned that the boy had told students he had a gun in his backpack, the notice stated. The teacher searched the backpack at about 12:30 p.m. but found no gun.
The same teacher “was made aware that the shooter had taken something out of his backpack right before she searched the shooter’s backpack, and the shooter put it in the pocket of his hoodie before going out to recess,” the notice stated.
When that teacher raised concerns to Parker, the assistant principal said the student “had small pockets, insinuating that he could not possibly have a gun on his person,” the notice of claim stated.
“Assistant Principal Parker should have called police,” the notice stated. “Instead, she did not follow proper protocol and chose to do absolutely nothing.”
Shortly after 1 p.m., a third teacher learned from a student in Zwerner’s class that the shooter showed him the gun during recess and threatened to shoot him if he told anyone, the notice stated.
That teacher called the school’s office and shared what she knew with a fourth teacher who picked up the phone, the notice stated.
The fourth teacher relayed the information to Parker, who said she was aware of the threat and that the student’s backpack had been searched.
The third and fourth teachers conferred again. And the fourth teacher returned to Parker’s office, where a guidance counselor was raising similar concerns about the student having a gun, the notice stated.
The guidance counselor asked if he could search the child for a weapon, to which Parker said “no” because the child’s mother was arriving soon to pick him up, the notice stated.
“Then approximately 45 minutes later Ms. Zwerner was shot in her left hand and upper chest by the shooter,” the notice stated.
“Ms. Zwerner was sitting at her reading table when the shooter, who was sitting at his desk, pulled the gun out of his pocket and shot her one time.”
After the shooting, police said the boy was taken to a medical facility where he is receiving unspecified services.
Len Wallin, director of legal services for the school system, said in an email that it’s standard practice for the school division to forward notices of intent to sue to its insurer, which handles such litigation.
Wallin said the district’s insurer will handle decisions regarding whether it will represent Parker — who resigned last month — “after consultation with the school board, if that is necessary.”
With Post wires