Parents Worry How Virginia Child Shot Teacher After Backpack Was Inspected
Parents Worry How Virginia Child Shot Teacher After Backpack Was Inspected

Parents Worry How Virginia Child Shot Teacher After Backpack Was Inspected

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Parents at the elementary school in Virginia where a 6-year-old boy shot a first-grade teacher this month want to know how the child got the gun out of his backpack and used it.

“That doesn’t make sense to me. If the backpack was searched, they didn’t search it right,” said Desiree Yvette, whose 6-year-old daughter witnessed the Jan. 6 shooting at Richneck Elementary School in which Abigail Zwerner was critically wounded.

Yvette continued: “They didn’t physically go in there to make sure that there wasn’t anything there. If that was the case, then someone should have been able to see it. They should have searched other places if they felt there was a need to search. And if they didn’t — they failed.”

Yvette was one of a group of Richneck parents who talked to NBC News on Sunday and asked how thoroughly the child, his backpack, and the school were searched before the shooting in Zwerner’s class, which had about 20 students. Officials say that Zwerner lived and is getting better.

Superintendent George Parker III said Thursday at a virtual town hall meeting that wasn’t open to the public that the boy had come to school late and that his book bag was checked when he went to the office to sign in. Parents who watched the meeting said that the boy had brought a gun to school.

“At least one administrator was notified of a possible weapon,” Parker said in a video reviewed by NBC News. A spokeswoman for the Newport News Police Department said that the investigation also showed that “a school employee was told about a possible gun at Richneck Elementary before the shooting.”

She added that the Newport News Police Department was not told about this information before the shooting. No other information was given about who did the search, why the gun wasn’t found, or if the child’s clothes were physically looked at. Thomas Britton, age 35, questioned what the school did when they found out the child might have brought a gun to school.

“You have a tip, a search, and a shot fired,” Britton said. He wanted to know if the child was taken out of class and if his parents knew he was suspected of bringing a gun onto campus.

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“What did they do, just, like, peek in the backpack and say, ‘I don’t see a gun. Go back to class’?” Britton said. “If there was somebody who said that my child brought a weapon, I would want to be notified, and I also would want him to be removed from class until it was straightened out.”

Britton’s son was supposed to be in Zwerner’s class when the shooting happened, but he was having a medical procedure at the time. Even though her mom didn’t want her to be there, Yvette’s daughter was there. Yvette, who is 31, said that Zwerner was traumatized by what she saw in the classroom. She cried when she talked about how much her daughter hurt.

“She’s scared of everything and everybody right now,” Yvette said. “She doesn’t feel safe. Her teacher was her biggest advocate, Mrs. Zwerner. And to experience that and see that, she doesn’t feel safe, because the person that was her safety in that school got hurt. She’s scared that anybody she loves and cares about is going to get hurt because of this.”

Mark Anthony Garcia, who is 38 years old, said that his son, who is in second grade, is “shaken up” after hearing the gunshot and then trying to help crying students. Garcia said he is upset that the school didn’t tell parents right away about the shooting. “Once the news dropped it, that’s when a lot of parents started rushing to the school with mass confusion,” Garcia said.

He also said that there wasn’t a security guard who could have checked the boy for a gun properly. “They did not have security there in the morning. I’m there every day. We don’t have security there in the morning.” Now, Garcia said, he wants to know “who will be held responsible” for the school’s security problems.

Last week, district officials said that Richneck will have a metal detector. The district has found money for 90 high-tech metal detectors that will be put in every school in the district. Officials say that Richneck has been closed since the shooting. In the past 17 months, there have been three gun incidents in the school district.

Chief of Police in Newport News, Steve Drew, said that the investigation is still going on. He has said before that the gun used in the shooting was a 9 mm Taurus that the child’s mother bought legally and that the boy took the gun from his home. Drew has said that a key part of the investigation is to find out if it was properly locked up.

Drew said on Sunday that part of the investigation is to look into the past of the boy and his parents. He also said that witnesses who are students will be talked to. “If there are any child protective service records, we want to look at those. If there are any school records dealing with behavioural issues or anything at all, dealing with violence, threats,” those reports will also be investigated, he said.

Drew added: “Regrettably, we want to talk to — I wish we didn’t have to, but to be thorough, we want to do our best — to talk to the students that were in the room. And we’ll be partnering with a child psychologist who will be handling those interviews for us.”

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