Teacher speaks out after being shot by six-year-old student in her classroom
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Featured Image Credit: NBC/Facebook/Abigail Zwerner
A teacher who was shot by a six-year-old student in her classroom has opened up about the terrifying ordeal.
Abigail Zwerner, 25, has spoken out for the first time since being shot by a young boy at Richneck Elementary School in the city of Newport News, Virginia, on 6 January.
In an interview with NBC’s Today, she said: "I thought I had died."
Police said the primary school student had brought the gun – which was legally purchased and belonged to his mother - to school in his backpack.
His family said he suffered from an ‘acute disability’ and usually didn’t go to school without one of his parents, but had been alone the day of the shooting.
Zwerner said the morning felt ‘like just a regular school day’, but that fear set in when she saw the gun being pointed at her.
"I remember the look on his face,” she recalled.
“I remember feeling something. It was a pretty scary day."
Zwerner said doctors told her the gunshot wound 'could've been fatal’, but the fact it went through her hand first ‘most likely’ saved her life.
"The initial gunshot went through my left hand and ruptured the middle bone as well as the index finger and the thumb,” she said.
Pointing to near her heart, the teacher added: “The gunshot then went into my chest up here where it actually still remains.
"So, I have a scar up here, and I still have some bullet fragments up here."
After being shot, Zwerner was worried about the other students and led them out of the classroom to safety, despite being injured.
"I'm not sure when the shock will ever go away… I think about it daily,” she said.
Zwerner now plans to sue the school district, with an intent-to-sue notice by her lawyer alleging that school leaders had been warned multiple times that the six-year-old child had a firearm, but that the school failed to respond adequately.
After the shooting, the school’s superintendent was fired and the assistant principal resigned, while full-time security and metal detectors have since been installed.
Neither the boy nor his family have been charged, with Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn saying his office would not seek charges against the youngster as the ‘prospect that a six-year-old can stand trial is problematic’, as he is too young to understand the legal system.
A statement released by the family said the boy had been in hospital receiving the ‘treatment he needs’.
“Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children,” it said.
“The firearm our son accessed was secured.”
The statement explained that the boy ‘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’, adding: “Additionally, our son has benefitted from an extensive community of care that also includes his grandparents working alongside us and other caregivers to ensure his needs and accommodations are met. 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.”
Tyla has reached out to Newport News Public Schools for comment.