The family of the 6-year-old Virginia boy who allegedly shot his first-grade teacher at a Newport News elementary school nearly two weeks ago has released a statement for the first time since the incident, lauding the teacher and saying their child has an acute disability.
“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 Thursday statement, released by attorney James Ellenson, said.
The statement comes on the same day officials announced Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner, who was wounded in the January 6 classroom shooting, has been released from the hospital.
Zwerner, 25, was shot in the chest after the bullet passed through one of her hands, Newport News Chief of Police Steve Drew told reporters last week. Police have not identified the first-grade student they say was responsible.
In the statement, the family said the gun allegedly used was secured before the shooting. They also said a family member usually went to class with him, but not the week of the incident.
“Our son 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,” the family statement says. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”
The gun was legally purchased by the child’s mother, who could face charges at the end of the investigation, according to Drew. The child brought it to school in his backpack, he said.
Under Virginia law, it’s a misdemeanor if an adult leaves a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a way it could endanger a child under the age of 14. The statute also says it is unlawful for a person to unknowingly allow a child under the age of 12 to use a firearm.
Ellenson had no comment on CNN’s follow-up questions on how the gun was secured and how the child was able to access it the day of the shooting. The statement said the family has been cooperating with investigators.
The family’s statement also praised Zwerner.
“She has worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son,” the family said. “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.”
Newport News Public Schools said Thursday it could not release any additional information about the shooting at this time.
Teacher was released earlier this week
Riverside Regional Medical Center spokesperson Angela Arcieri said Zwerner was released earlier this week.
“(Zwerner) continues her recovery as an outpatient with the support of family, friends, and health professionals. The Zwerner family respectfully asks for privacy during this time,” Arcieri wrote in an emailed statement.
Police have described the shooting, which initially left the teacher critically injured, as “intentional.”
Zwerner has been praised for her heroic actions keeping her students safe after she was shot. She made sure all her students made it out of the classroom, Drew said, and was the last person to leave her classroom before making her way to the administration office.
Classrooms are closed until at least January 30, when the next semester begins. Officials have “organized a time for Richneck families to begin transitioning students back into the building” next Wednesday, according to the school’s website.
The school is hosting emotional support services Thursday and Friday for students and families.
The Richneck shooting was the first of 2023 at a US school, according to a CNN analysis. In 2022, there were 60 shootings at K-12 schools, the CNN analysis shows.
Still, school shootings by a suspect so young are very rare. According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, which tracks shootings in American schools since 1970, there have been three other cases in which the suspect was as young as 6: in 2000, 2011 and 2021.
CNN’s Dakin Andone contributed to this report.