A six-year-old boy will not face any criminal charges for shooting his teacher at a Virginia elementary school, prosecutors have said.
Teacher Abigail Zwerner was shot and injured on 6 January at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, and the shocking incident led to the resignation of the school’s superintendent and an assistant principal.
Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News that his office would not bring charges against the youngster and said that the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic.”
The prosecutor told NBC News that the child’s age meant they would not be able to understand the charges, the legal system or help their defence lawyer.
He added that his office has not yet determined if charges will be brought against any adults in connection with the shooting.
“Our objective is not just to do something as quickly as possible,” Mr Gwynn said. “Once we analyze all the facts, we will charge any person or persons that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt committed a crime.”
Ms Zwerner, 25, received wounds to her hand and chest in the shooting, but authorities say that she safely escorted 20 students from her classroom.
Her lawyer told reporters in January that the boy, a first-grade student at the school, had behavioural issues and had been involved in a string of incidents with teachers.
A notice of intent to sue the school states that the boy had received a one-day suspension for breaking the teacher’s phone but returned the next day with a 9mm handgun and shot her as she sat at a table in the classroom.
Diane Toscano, Ms Zwerner’s lawyer has said that the shooting was “entirely preventable” if school administrators “had taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger.”
The boy’s family has said that the gun used in the shooting had been “secured” and that the youngster suffers from “an acute disability” and normally had one of his parents with him in the classroom, although not on the day of the shooting.
“Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children,” said the unidentified family in a statement. “The firearm our son accessed was secured.”
Attorney James Ellenson told the Associated Press that the gun was stored on a top shelf that is over 6ft high, inside a closet. He added that the 9mm handgun also has a trigger lock on it.