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Documents show 6-year-old who shot teacher made unsettling statements

Unsealed documents detail the moments leading up to the shooting of a teacher, 25, by a student, 6, and how he allegedly confessed to the crime.
Documents show 6-year-old who shot teacher made unsettling statements
Posted at 5:26 PM, Aug 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-08 17:27:58-04

Newly revealed details from an unsealed search warrant include statements a 6-year-old student allegedly made after he shot a teacher at a Newport News elementary school, including: "I shot that b**** dead," "I did it" and "I got my mom’s gun last night," Scripps News Norfolk reports.

The shooting happened Jan. 6, 2023, at Richneck Elementary School, where police said the student shot 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner in her classroom. First responders say they found Zwerner in the school office with gunshot wounds in her left hand and upper torso.

A staff member who restrained the boy said he admitted to shooting the teacher and claimed he got his mom's gun the night before the shooting, the search warrants read. 

Zwerner’s legal team said multiple school staff members, including Zwerner, approached Richneck's administration on the day of the shooting saying they had concerns about the 6-year-old boy.

According to the search warrant, one of those staff members — Amy Kovac, a reading specialist at the school — said they heard from two students on the day of the shooting who said the 6-year-old revealed he had a gun in his book bag.

The warrant also said Kovac and a school administrator searched the student's backpack when the class went to recess, but they said they did not find a gun.

According to investigators, Kovac said after students returned from recess she heard a gunshot come from the classroom and she saw several children run from the room. 

Kovac also said she saw Zwerner run from the classroom, bleeding from the hand and upper torso. Zwerner was taken to a hospital.

A search warrant said Kovac went into the classroom and saw the 6-year-old standing by his desk with a gun on the floor next to him. Kovac said she held the 6-year-old in place until police got to the scene, according to details in the warrant. 

It was during that time that the 6-year-old allegedly made several statements to Kovac, including, "I shot that b**** dead," "I did it," and "I got my mom’s gun last night."

Investigators interviewed Zwerner at a hospital after the shooting. 

They said she told them that after walking into the classroom from recess she divided her students into groups for a reading activity. That’s when she saw the 6-year-old pull the gun from his jacket pocket and point it toward her.

Zwerner asked, "What are you doing with that?" according to the search warrant.

That’s when investigators say the student fired a shot, which went through Zwerner's left hand and into her torso. 

Zwerner also told investigators there had been multiple "disciplinary incidents" involving the boy prior to the shooting, involving physical violence and threats of violence, which had been reported to school administrators.

Several days after the shooting, detectives interviewed a retired Newport News elementary school teacher who had been assigned to Richneck. According to the details of the warrant, the retired teacher said she was choked in September of 2021 by the same student who allegedly shot Zwerner.

The child has not been charged in the shooting, but his mother Deja Taylor is facing charges related to the case. She is set to have a plea hearing instead of a bench trial on Aug. 15. 

She’ll appear in court for two charges: Felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of leaving a firearm in a way that could endanger a child.

Taylor’s lawyer, James Ellenson, previously said he and his client were hoping to work out a plea deal for the charges. He also said Taylor faced mental health issues after having an abnormal pregnancy and a miscarriage, which he said they believe contributed to the shooting.

"That resulted in postpartum depression and that has been a large factor in a number of the events that led up to the unfortunate event on January 6," Ellenson said in April.

Taylor also faces federal gun and drug charges. She has already pleaded guilty to being an unlawful user of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm, and making a false statement during the purchase of a firearm. 

She'll appear in court for those charges on Oct. 18.

The Newport News School District said in a statement, when asked about the search warrant, "Unfortunately, FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, prevents schools from releasing information from a student’s education record." 

This story was originally published by Jay Greene and Kelsey Jones at Scripps News Norfolk in Virginia. 

SEE MORE: Questions remain in shooting of Virginia teacher by 6-year-old student


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