Teacher killed by 6-year-old boy describes challenging recovery

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A Virginia teacher who was hit and injured by her 6-year-old student said she has had four surgeries and is having a difficult recovery.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the Jan. 6 shooting, first grade teacher Abby Zwerner said during an exclusive interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that she has some days where she “can’t get out of bed,” while others she he is able to go about his day and get to appointments.

“For having been through what I have been through, I try to stay positive. You know, try to take a positive view of what happened and where my future is going,” Zwerner said in an interview portion that aired Monday on “NBC Nightly News.”

Zwerner was hospitalized for nearly two weeks after being shot in the chest and left hand while teaching her class at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia. The shooting rocked the military shipbuilding community and sent shockwaves across the country, with many wondering how a child so young could have access to a gun and shoot her teacher.

Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano, told reporters in January that concerned school staff had warned administrators three times that the 6-year-old had a gun and was threatening other students in the hours before Zwerner was shot. Toscano said the school administration “was paralyzed with apathy” and did not call the police, remove the boy from class or shut down the school.

In early February, Zwerner’s legal notice about his plans to sue the school district said the boy who shot Zwerner had consistently insulted staff and teachers, tried to belt-whip students and she had once choked another teacher “until she couldn’t breathe.”

Two days before the shooting, the boy allegedly “slammed” Zwerner’s cell phone and broke it, resulting in a one-day suspension. When the boy returned to class the following day, he pulled his mother’s 9mm pistol from his pocket and shot her as she sat at a reading table, the legal notice said.

The Newport News School board fired its superintendent following the shooting. Ebony Parker, an assistant principal who was at the center of Zwerner’s intent to sue, resigned.

The Newport News chief prosecutor said earlier this month that he would not bring charges against the 6-year-old because the boy lacked the expertise to understand the legal system and what a charge means. But Newport News Commonwealth solicitor Howard Gwynn said his office has not decided whether any adults will be held criminally liable.

The boy used the gun his mother bought legally, according to police. James Ellenson, an attorney for the boy’s mother, said in January that the weapon was strapped to a high closet shelf and had been locked away.

Ellenson said it’s unclear how the boy got access to the gun. He also said the boy “was under a care plan at the school which included his mother or father attending school with him and walking him to class every day.”

In a statement released via Ellenson, the boy’s family said the week of the shooting “was the first week we weren’t in class with him. “

“We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the statement said.

More of the interview with Zwerner will air on “Today” Tuesday morning.

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