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A 6-year-old old student who shot his first grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Virginia last year exhibited signs of violence prior to the shooting and should not have been enrolled in school, according to a special grand jury report released Wednesday.

Behavioral Problems:

The child “exhibited many behavioral problems” prior to the Jan. 6, 2023 incident where he shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner, with a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol. The child was also reportedly disruptive during his kindergarten year to both fellow students and teacher Susan White, who was named in the grand jury report.

“Over the course of the kindergarten year the child exhibited many behavioral problems,” the special grand jury report stated. “He was disruptive in class and to his teacher, Susan White. The child would ‘get in other kids faces’ and when removed from class by a counselor would occasionally hit or punch the counselor.” 

“In one incident, the child kicked and spit on the teacher assistant” the report said.

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The special grand jury detailed a disturbing incident when the student choked his kindergarten teacher in Sept. 2021.

“On September 27, 2021, Ms. White was concluding breakfast with the students when the child went to dump his breakfast in the hallway trash can and never returned. Ms. White went to search for him and found him with the security guard. When Ms. White tried to take his hand and bring him back to class the child hit Ms. White and yelled, “No! I don’t want to go back to class.” The child then aggressively twisted and pulled down on the security guard’s wrist. Due to his behavior, the security guard took the child to [assistant principal- Dr. Parker, while Ms. White returned to class,” the report said.

“At some point, Ms. White was sitting in a kids chair teaching the class. The child went up behind Ms. White placed his forearms in front of her neck and pulled down so hard she couldn’t breathe, choking her. The teacher’s assistant saw Ms. White being choked by the child and rescued her by pulling the child’s arms off and removing him from the class.”

Despite the child’s behavior, the student was returned to class and allowed to stay after school administration said there was “no administrator available to deal with the situation.”

Despite instances of physical aggression and profanity, the child was not given an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or considered for an alternative school placement, the report said. 

Students gather outside Richneck Elementary after teacher was shot

The grand jury also recommended further investigation into how the school handled two files on the student, both of which were missing when officials executed a search warrant. 

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One file was returned by an administrator, but the file lacked the child’s disciplinary records, the report said. The other was never found. 

Richneck Zwerner vigil two

Security Issues:

The report details security issues that were allegedly “not addressed or were dismissed.”

Richneck Elementary School did not have a “consistent, full time” school resource officer (SRO) at the time of the shooting, the report said. 

Along with not having a SRO, the school had a faulty front door system that was “broken for weeks” prior to the Jan. 6, 2023 shooting.

The school also did not practice school lockdown drills, despite it being federally mandated.

The report also said classrooms did not have a clear pathway for drills since the classrooms did not have “doors or permanent walls (the walls were made of partitions).” 

Lack of Response: 

The report provides further details about the events leading up to the shooting and during it. 

Moments prior to the shooting, the boy “immediately started showing signs of aggression” at lunch and was escorted by Zwerner from the room.

Ebony Parker

Zwerner went to the school’s assistant principal, Ebony Parker, and shared that the student was in a violent mood.

“Dr. Parker did not respond. Dr. Parker did not look away from her computer screen. Dr. Parker did not acknowledge Ms. Zwerner’s presence,” the report said.

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According to the report, Parker only took action after Zwerner had left her office. The assistant principal told her assistant to call the boy’s mother to pick him up early.

Abby Zwerner in court

According to the grand jury report, Parker was made aware on four occasions on the day of the shooting that the child might be a “potentially dangerous threat”: 

At noon, a Richneck reading specialist told Parker that two students told her the child had a gun in his backpack, yet it was not checked.

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At 12:30 p.m., the reading specialist told Parker that while she did search the backpack, she did not find a weapon,. Zwerner said that the child might have put something in his pockets.

A music teacher warned Parker that another first-grade teacher mentioned a gun.

And at 1:40 p.m., a guidance counselor told Parker the child might have a firearm or ammunition and, when he asked whether he could search him, Parker “refused and took no action.”

The report noted that the child was at recess – with 30 other children – with a firearm “tucked in his jacket.”

Residents of Newport News hold a candlelight vigil

At 1:58 p.m., Zwerner watched the child turn his body towards her and hold a firearm.

“He pointed directly at Ms. Zwerner, and, at less than six feet away, pulled the trigger and shot Ms. Zwerner,” the report said.

The gun the boy fired at Zwerner jammed after he fired the first round, according to the report.

There were seven more bullets in the magazine — and 15 other 2nd grade students in the classroom.

“The firearm had jammed due to his lack of strength on the first shot, inhibiting him from shooting Ms. (Abigail) Zwerner or anyone else again,” the report said. “The firearm had a full magazine with seven additional bullets ready to fire if not for the jamming.”

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