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Tipsheet

So, That's Why the VA Student Who Intentionally Shot His Teacher Won't Be Charged

Steve Helber

The six-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia will not face charges. In January, this youngster shot Abigail Zwerner at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. Zwerner intends to sue the school district that recently fired the superintendent. Yet, this shooting appears to be an iceberg that could have been avoided, with numerous concerns about the facility's security. Zwerner was shot while instructing her class but was able to evacuate the rest of her students before collapsing from blood loss. Blessedly, she’s expected to make a full recovery. 

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The student had numerous behavioral concerns, including thoughts about setting teachers on fire. He was such a problem that his parents usually escorted him to school. The parental units were not present on the day of the shooting. School officials downplayed the concerns of staff. The reason why the shooter will not be charged is that local prosecutors feel there isn’t a legal basis (via NBC News): 

The city prosecutor in Newport News, Virginia, said Wednesday that he would not seek charges against the 6-year-old boy who shot his elementary school teacher in January but has yet to decide whether any adults associated with the case could be held criminally liable. 

In an interview with NBC News, Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn said the "prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic" given that a child that young wouldn't have the competency to understand the legal system and what a charge means or adequately assist an attorney. It's not unheard of for an adolescent of that age to be arrested in general, and theoretically, a 6-year-old child could be criminally charged under Virginia law.

But Gwynn said that he does not believe there is a legal basis to charge a child and that his office, after receiving the case in February from Newport News police, is focusing on others. 

"Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible," Gwynn said. "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." 

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At the minimum, the parents certainly face lawsuits for allowing their firearm to fall into the possession of their child, who brought it to school and intentionally shot Ms. Zwerner. The wheels of justice do move slowly, but to say this isn’t without unreasonable doubt appears to be a cop-out. The kid pulled the gun out and shot a woman. There’s no doubt about that fact.

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