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Police described the Virginia teacher as a hero for what she did after she was shot


We're learning more about the shooting at a Virginia elementary school that left one teacher wounded. Police say a 6-year-old boy pulled the trigger.


Newport News Police describe the teacher as a hero for what she did after she was shot on Friday. But troubling questions are emerging about how to move forward in a case where the suspect is a first-grader.

BROWN: Yeah. We're joined by Ryan Murphy of member station WHRO in Norfolk. He's been following this story. Ryan, good morning. You know, it's rare, of course, to have such a young child shoot a teacher. What are police saying about how he got the gun?

RYAN MURPHY, BYLINE: Well, Dwane, we learned yesterday from a new briefing from the chief that the boy took the gun from his home. It was his mother's gun. She had bought it legally. They rolled out some more information, filling in some gaps in the timeline for us. You know, we know he showed up to school with the gun. He pulled it out during class, pointed it at his teacher while she was doing a lesson. You know, there wasn't a fight or a struggle over the gun. He just fired it once, ended up hitting her in the hand and then in the chest.

BROWN: Yeah. This teacher, popular on campus, Abby Zwerner. What do we know about her condition at this point?

MURPHY: Well, her condition sounds like it's improving. Initially, she was listed with life-threatening injuries. She's now stable, and she's apparently talking. The chief said he'd talked to her a couple of times. Apparently, the first question she had was asking how her students were.

BROWN: Yeah. What more have we learned about that 6-year-old boy? I mean, rare for such a young child to be involved in such a heinous incident.

MURPHY: Yeah. So we didn't learn a whole lot more about him personally, but we do know he was taken into police custody pretty quickly after the shooting happened. Since then, he's been detained by police. They put him under a temporary detention order. That's, in Virginia, the same kind of order they use to get people experiencing mental health crises into treatment. He's being examined by child psychologists at a medical facility. For the moment, he'll probably be there a couple of days more before they decide where to go with this.

BROWN: Yeah. And given his age, 6, how are authorities pursuing this case?

MURPHY: Well, it's one of those things - the police chief said, we're going to take this slow. And they'll be having to - have to see what the psychologists say once they're done evaluating him. Police Chief Steve Drew said that they could bring him up in front of a judge after the evaluations are done and the detention order runs out. That seems really unlikely. We've been speaking to some legal experts. They say they've never seen a child this young charged in a case like this. So if he doesn't get taken in front of a judge for charges, there are other options from there - you know, getting the boy more mental health services, looking at his home situation, deciding if he needs to be moved elsewhere. You know, the school superintendent yesterday said there's only been a couple of other cases of kids this young deliberately shooting someone at school. So, you know, getting a resolution in this case is going to be pretty tricky. There's not a whole lot of precedent.

BROWN: Yeah. Ryan Murphy of member station WHRO, thank you.

MURPHY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Dwane Brown
Dwane Brown is a multiple award-winning newscaster for NPR and joined the network in December 2015. He is the first newscaster to broadcast from NPR West in Culver City, California. His newscasts air during All Things Considered.
Ryan Murphy
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