A Virginia grand jury has indicted the mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot and killed his teacher on charges of child neglect and failing to keep her handgun in the home, a prosecutor said Monday.
A grand jury sitting in Newport News indicted the boy’s 25-year-old mother with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of reckless storage of a firearm endangering the safety of a child, U.S. Attorney Howard Gwin said at a news conference.
The Associated Press did not name the mother to protect her son’s identity.
boy First grade teacher Abby Zwerner shot on January 6 She is in a classroom at Richneck Elementary School. Police said the gun was legally purchased by the boy’s mother.Her attorney, James Ellenson, said The gun was secured to the top shelf of her closet with a trigger lock.
Allenson said Monday that his client plans to turn himself in later this week. He did not comment on the indictment, which was first reported by The Daily News.
The decision to charge the boy’s mother is the latest development in the shooting in the shipbuilding city of about 185,000 people near the Chesapeake Bay.
“The facts in each criminal case are unique and support these allegations, but our investigation into the shooting continues,” Gwin said.
Gwin said his office has asked the court to appoint a special grand jury to continue investigating any safety issues that may have contributed to the shooting.
“The safety and security of Newport News students is paramount. The special grand jury will investigate to determine whether the additional charges against others comply with the facts and the law,” Gwin said.
Virginia’s felony child neglect law states that any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child “whose willful act or omission in the care of that child is so gross, wanton, and reprehensible as to exhibit a reckless disregard” for a 6th degree felony. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The misdemeanor charge says it is against Virginia law to “recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in a manner that endangers the life or limb of any child under the age of 14.” The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison.
Police Chief Steve Drew has repeatedly characterized the shooting as “intentional.” Without warning or a struggle, the child pointed the gun at Zwerner and fired one shot, hitting her in the hand and chest, he said.
Zwerner, 25, kicked her students out of the classroom and was taken to the hospital, where she stayed for nearly two weeks.
Ellenson told The Associated Press in January that he knew the gun was in the woman’s closet, on a shelf more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) high, and had a trigger lock that required a key.
The family said after the shooting that the boy was “severely disabled” and was receiving a care plan that “includes his mother or father accompanying him to school and accompanying him to class every day.” The family said his parents didn’t attend classes with him the first week of the shooting.
The child was taken to a hospital where he was treated and given “the treatment he needs,” the family said in the days after the shooting.
The shooting also sparked plenty of criticism of school administrators.
Days after the shooting, school officials revealed that administrators at Richneck Elementary School It is suspected that the child may have a weapon before the shooting. But despite searching his backpack, they couldn’t find it.
In subsequent school board meetings, parents and teachers berated administrators for wrongly emphasizing attendance over the safety of children and staff. Students who attack fellow students and faculty often face few consequences, they said, and the Zwerner shooting could have been avoided if the teachers’ concerns had not been ignored because of the toxic environment.
in a litigation Zwerner’s lawyers filed a lawsuit last week seeking $40 million, accusing school officials of gross negligence and ignoring repeated warnings from teachers and other school employees on the day of the shooting, saying the boy was armed and in a “violent mood”. “.
In the lawsuit, Zwerner’s attorneys said all defendants knew the boy had “a history of casual violence” at school and at home, including an episode a year earlier in which he “strangled and strangled” a kindergarten teacher.
Newport News school board fires district superintendent, while Richneck’s Vice-Chancellor resigns from Faculty. The elementary school principal is still employed by the district, but no longer holds that position. .
Richneck also previously installed metal detectors reopened on Jan. 30, a full three weeks after the shooting.
—Ben Finley and Denise Lavoie, Associated Press
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