By BEN FINLEY and DENISE LAVOIE (Associated Press)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) — Authorities plan to offer updates Monday on the shooting of a Virginia elementary school teacher by a 6-year-old student, and the community will later hold a candlelight vigil.
The Newport News police department said that the police chief, mayor and school superintendent will hold a news conference at 4 p.m. to discuss the shooting that happened on Friday at Richneck Elementary School. A vigil is planned at 6:30 p.m. for the wounded teacher, Abby Zwerner.
Police Chief Steve Drew has said the boy shot and wounded Zwerner with a handgun in a first-grade classroom on Friday. Shortly after the shooting, police said Zwerner had life-threatening injuries, but she has improved and was listed in stable condition at a local hospital.
Principal Briana Foster Newton said in an update on the school’s website that Zwerner has been able to talk to family and friends. The school will be closed for the week.
The boy was later taken into police custody. Drew said the shooting was not accidental and was part of an altercation. No students were injured.
Police have declined to describe what led to the altercation or any other details about what happened in the classroom, citing the ongoing investigation. They have also declined to say how the boy got access to the gun or who owns the weapon.
Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty. Authorities have not specified where the boy was being held.
On Monday morning, several parents, grandparents and community members gathered with a local pastor in an open patch of grass outside the school.
Among them was parent Eric Billet, who said each of his three children in the Newport News school system, two of whom go to Richneck, has reacted differently to the shooting.
Billet’s son who is in middle school has raised concerns about school security, telling his dad that he felt safer at theme parks, which the boy argued had better security than his school. His second-grade son is doing better, Billet said, fist-bumping a police officer on his way out of school Friday.
His daughter, a fourth-grader, has had nightmares every night, Billet said.
But at the same time, he said, “she was also disappointed she couldn’t go to school this week.”
___ Lavoie reported from Richmond.