A six-year-old Virginia first grader who intentionally opened fire on and severely wounded his teacher two months ago is reportedly not being charged with anything, either as an adult or a juvenile, meaning he gets to go home scot-free.
Speaking with NBC News on Wednesday, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said that the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic” because a child that young can’t truly understand the legal system.
He added that he may, however, be interested in charging others — such as the boy’s parents, for instance, for not adequately securing their gun.
“Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible. 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,” Gwynn said.
In a separate statement to local station WVEC, he went into a little more detail about what he meant when he’d used the word “problematic.”
“The general consensus [among experts across the country] is that a 6-year-old cannot form the requisite criminal intent to be guilty of an aggravated assault. I think it is problematical to assume that a 6-year-old understands the criminal justice system enough to be competent to stand trial,” he said.
WVEC notes that a number of parents have said that Gwynn’s decision sets a bad example, especially considering that the crime committed was reportedly intentional.
According to various reports, the unnamed boy stole his mother’s gun on the morning of the shooting, took it with him to Richneck Elementary School, and then opened fire at point-blank range after his teacher, Abby Zwerner, had finished reading a story.
“As the class were readying to head to an art lesson, a parent of one of the children in the class revealed that the youngster then pulled out the handgun, leading Zwerner to quickly try and confiscate it. Her intervention led him to pull the trigger, with the bullet passing through her hand and into her chest,” the Daily Mail reported.
“Police confirmed at the time that the attack was intentional, not accidental. Despite being hit with the bullet, authorities said Zwerner made sure all the children in her class were safe and out of the room before she attempted to find help.”
Zwerner thankfully survived, though she was reportedly at one point in critical condition.
What’s also known is that the boy had previously expressed evil thoughts about her:
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) January 23, 2023
“On one occasion, the boy wrote a note telling [another] teacher he hated her and wanted to light her on fire and watch her die, according to the teacher’s account,” The Washington Post reported back in January.
“Alarmed, the teacher brought the note to the attention of Richneck administrators and was told to drop the matter, according to the account. The date of the incident was not mentioned,” the Post added.
During a second incident, “the boy threw furniture and other items in class, prompting students to hide beneath their desks, according to the account.”
“Another time, the [other] teacher alleges in her account, the boy barricaded the doors to a classroom, preventing a teacher and students from leaving,” according to the Post.
“The teacher banged on the classroom door until another teacher from across the hall forced it open from the outside, according to the teacher’s account. It was not clear whether the teacher asked for any specific action from administrators after that incident,” the Post reported.
Zwerner had also repeatedly raised concerns about the boy’s troubling behavior pattern.
Screenshots of a conversation held online between school employees and Parker shortly after the shooting show educators claiming that Zwerner raised alarms about the 6-year-old and sought assistance during the school year,” according to the Post.
“[S]he had asked for help,” one staffer wrote.
“[S]everal times,” another added.
“A separate message written by a Richneck teacher, and obtained by The Washington Post from the local teachers union, alleges that school administrators waved away grave concerns about the 6-year-old’s conduct and that the school was overall unable to care for him properly,” the Post noted.
According to reports, Zwerner is now planning on suing the school district:
The first grade teacher in Virginia who was shot by her six-year-old student in Newport News, Virginia, intends on suing the school district.
— Rex Chapman (@RexChapman) January 26, 2023
That said, some parents do understand Gwynn’s thought process.
“A 6-year-old can only be responsible for so much mentally,” one such parent, Rebecca Reese, told WVEC, adding that she thinks the adults tied to the situation (the parents, for example) could eventually be charged.
“I believe that they’ve been very slow in reacting to holding the parents responsible, specifically the mother because it was her weapon,” she said.
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