The family of a 6-year-old who shot and killed a teacher at Richneck Elementary School has spoken out

The family of a six-year-old boy who authorities say shot and wounded a teacher in Virginia earlier this month at an elementary school expressed sympathy for the teacher Thursday and said their son is suffering from “acute disability.”

Offering its first public comments on the shooting that drew national attention, family members said in a statement released through their attorney, James S. Ellenson, that gun police say the boy brought from the home and used to carry out the shooting “was secured.”

But the statement offered no specific details and no explanation as to how a young boy was able to take a loaded gun from their home. Police previously said the boy’s mother legally purchased the gun the student brought to school in a backpack.

Authorities say they are still investigating how the boy got the gun and are looking into whether to charge anyone for failing to protect him. A Newport News police spokesman declined to comment on the family’s description of how the gun was stored Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation.

“Our hearts go out to our son’s teacher and we pray for her healing after such an unimaginable tragedy as she selflessly served our son and the children at the school,” the statement said. “She worked diligently and compassionately to support our family as we sought the best education and learning environment for our son. We thank her for her courage, grace and sacrifice.”

6-year-old boy suspected of shooting V. teacher used gun legally purchased by mother, police say

The statement said the family is cooperating with local and federal law enforcement “to understand how this could have happened.” The boy was under a care plan at the school, which included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day until the week of the shooting, the statement said.

“The week of the shooting was the first week we were not in class with him,” the statement said. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives.”

Before the shooting, the 6-year-old’s backpack was searched by a school employee

The boy is in the hospital receiving treatment after the shooting, the release said. Ellenson did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the statement.

Newport News police said the shooting happened shortly after 2 p.m 6th of January at Richneck Elementary School. The boy pulled out a gun and shot first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner while she was teaching a lesson, police said. The bullet tore through Zwerner’s outstretched arm and struck her in the chest.

Authorities have ruled the shooting intentional, but are still investigating a motive. The boy has not been charged with a crime, and legal experts say that is unlikely because Virginia law assumes that children under the age of seven cannot form an intent to commit an illegal act.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said in an online chat Wednesday that the investigation into the shooting is progressing, but authorities still need to conduct interviews with some of the students in the class and obtain school records and other materials.

Zwerner was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, and Drew said she is still recovering.

Earlier this week, hundreds of parents packed a school board meeting in Newport News to complain about school security in the district, where since 2021 there have been three school shootings.

Some parents also questioned how Richnek handled the events leading up to the shooting. Newport News Schools Superintendent George Parker III said last week that school officials received a tip that the boy had a gun on the day of the shooting and searched his backpack but did not find the weapon. The police said they weren’t you contacted about the adviceand parents questioned how a six-year-old managed to hide a gun from school officials.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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