The parents of the 6-year-old Virginia boy who shot his school teacher Abigail Zwerner said Thursday that their son is severely disabled — and claimed that the gun used in the shooting had been “secured,” according to a statement from their attorney.
The statement did not specify where the 9mm Taurus handgun was kept or how the child could have gained access to it.
“Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children,” the statement said.
“The firearm our son accessed was secured.”
The family also said that the unnamed first-grader “suffers from an acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.”
According to the parents, the week of the shooting “was the first week when we were not in class with him. We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”
The statement from the family also addressed the boy’s relationship with his teacher, who is still recovering from gunshot wounds nearly two weeks later.
“Our heart goes out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her healing in the aftermath of such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children in the school,” the family said.
“She has worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son. We thank her for her courage, grace and sacrifice.
“We grieve alongside all of the other teachers, families and administrators for how this horrific incident has impacted them, our community, and the nation.”
The family said the child has been under hospital care since the shooting and is receiving “the treatment he needs.”
The missive was released through the office of Newport News-based attorney James Ellenson. It marks the first time the boy’s family publicly spoke out since the Jan. 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School that shocked the nation.
Police previously said that the 6-year-old’s mother legally purchased the gun but that it was unclear how her son gained access to it.
A Virginia law prohibits leaving a loaded gun where it is accessible to a child under 14 — a misdemeanor crime punishable with a maximum one-year prison sentence and $2,500 fine.
So far, no charges have been filed against the mother, but Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew noted during a Facebook Live virtual town hall Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing.
The chief was asked at least twice about whether the boy’s parents would be held accountable, or if the mother would be charged. Drew responded by saying that he wanted to ensure that the city’s detectives were able to conduct a thorough investigation.
“I am not going to rush them,” Drew said.
He added his department has a great relationship with local prosecutors, and that he has “tremendous faith” that “they will make the right decision based on the evidence that they have in front of them.”
Drew said investigators have nearly finished interviewing the children who were in the classroom where the shooting took place. He said police are working with a psychologist to talk to them about what they saw.
“This is a unprecedented incident that we have had in our city, where a 6-year-old child obtained a firearm, brought it to school, pointed it, fired and shot his teacher in front of other students,” the chief said.
Zwerner was shot while teaching her first grade class at Richneck Elementary. Authorities said there was no warning and no struggle before the boy pointed the gun at the 25-year-old teacher.
The bullet pierced her hand and struck her chest, police said. The wounded Zwerner ushered her students out of the classroom before collapsing and being rushed to the hospital.
Drew described the shooting as “intentional.” A judge will determine what’s next for the 6-year-old shooter.
Newport News Schools Superintendent George Parker III revealed last week that Richneck administrators had been tipped off that the boy may have had a weapon hours before the shooting. But a search of his backpack failed to locate the handgun.
The revelation sparked outrage among parents and teachers. Many criticized school system administrators during a tumultuous Tuesday night school board meeting what they called a misguided emphasis on attendance and other education statistics over the safety of children and staff.
With Post wires