Richneck school officials were warned that the six-year-old had a gun before he shot the elementary school teacher

The Virginia teacher who was shot by her six-year-old student along with other teachers had warned school officials that the boy could be armed, according to the victim’s attorney and loved one.

A source close to Abigail Zwerner said she texted about an hour before she was shot and killed on Jan. 6 saying the student said he had a gun in his backpack and the administrators of the Richneck Elementary School in Newport News wouldn’t have helped.

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The text “showed her frustration,” the source said, though she didn’t disclose the news that came before or after it.

“She was frustrated because she was trying to get help for this child, for this child, and then when she needed help, no one came.”

Zwerner, 25, is recovering at home from a gunshot wound to his hand and chest.

On Wednesday morning, her attorney Diane Toscano held a news conference and said three teachers went to the school administration about the boy’s behavior on Jan. 6, believing he had brought a gun onto campus.

Abigail Zwerner was shot dead by a six-year-old student in Virginia on January 6. Credit: ABC

Zwerner first went to a school administrator between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. local time on the day of the incident and said the student had threatened to beat up a classmate, Toscano said.

A second teacher went to a school administrator an hour later and told the administrator that she took it upon herself to search the six-year-old boy’s backpack.

“The administrator downplayed the teacher’s report and the possibility of a weapon,” Toscano said.

A third teacher told an administrator just before 1 p.m. the boy showed the gun to a student during recess and “threatened to shoot him if he told anyone,” Toscano said.

A fourth employee asked an administrator for permission to search the boy, which was denied, Toscano said.

The administrator told the employee to “wait out the situation because the school day was almost over,” Toscano said.

Abigail Zwerner’s lawyer said several teachers had contacted school administrators, warning them that a six-year-old child could be armed. Credit: ABC

Toscano said the “administration could not be disturbed” and that the tragedy was “entirely avoidable” if the administration “had taken action when they were aware of an imminent danger.” But instead they didn’t act and Abby was shot.”

Toscano said she plans to file a lawsuit on Zwerner’s behalf.

A district spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on Toscano’s allegations.

School officials have previously told parents that the boy’s bag was inspected after he was late for school and reported to the office.

A candlelight vigil was held in honor of shooting instructor Abby Zwerner. Credit: AP

The teacher takes the students to safety after they are shot

Toscano called Zwerner “the best of us,” a dedicated teacher who had to endure the unthinkable: “while teaching, intentionally shot by a six-year-old student in front of her first grade.”

Zwerner still has a dangerous bullet in her body, Toscano said.

“Today she is between surgeries and physical therapy appointments with a questionable career,” Toscano said.

“The road to full recovery will be long and as her physical condition improves, the psychological wounds will cut deep and remain fresh,” Toscano said.

The school system’s superintendent, George Parker III, said in a virtual town hall this month that at least one administrator has been briefed on a possible weapon.

A police spokeswoman for Newport News said authorities also found through their investigation that “a school employee was notified of a possible firearm at Richneck Elementary School prior to the shooting.”

Police have called Zwerner a hero for escorting her students out of class despite suffering a gunshot wound. Credit: Facebook

No further details were given about who conducted the search, why the gun was not found and whether the child’s clothing was physically examined.

Zwerner was hailed as a hero by police, who said after she was shot, she still managed to escort about 20 students safely from her first class in Richneck.

“I think she saved lives because I don’t know what else would have happened if those kids had stayed in that room,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said during a news conference earlier this month.

No charges related to the case have been publicly announced.

The child’s family bought a gun legally

Drew has said the child’s mother legally purchased the 9mm Taurus firearm used in the shooting and that the boy took the gun from his home. Whether it was properly secured is a key element in the investigation, he said.

The family of the boy who shot Zwerner said in a statement last week that the gun was “secured” when the child took it from their home, but did not elaborate.

Our family has always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keep firearms out of the reach of children. The firearm accessed by our son has been seized,” the statement said, released by family attorney James Ellenson.

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James Brien

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