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A school staffer searched the backpack of a Virginia 6-year-old before shooting. Now, the school will install metal detectors

<i>John C. Clark/AP</i><br/>
John C. Clark/AP

By Raja Razek, CNN

Richneck Elementary School in Virginia will install walk-through metal detectors after officials were alerted last week that a 6-year-old student who allegedly shot his teacher might have had a weapon but failed to find it after a search.

Before last week’s shooting of a first-grade teacher, school officials were told that the child might have brought a weapon to school, according to Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker.

At least one school administrator was notified earlier on January 6, the day of the shooting, of the possible presence of the weapon, Parker told school families during a town hall meeting on Thursday, according to an email sent to CNN by school district spokesperson Michelle Price.

Parker also said that a search of the boy’s backpack found nothing.

When asked why school officials didn’t call the police when they got that warning, Price declined CNN’s request for comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Price told The Washington Post in an email Thursday night that she was unaware who initially reported that the student may have had a weapon.

Officials are also unaware of where the weapon was hidden during the search of the child’s backpack, Price told the outlet Thursday night.

The decision to install metal detectors was announced by Newport News School Board Chairperson Lisa R. Surles-Law in a press conference Thursday.

The school board requested the metal detectors for Richneck immediately to get the students back in the building, Surles-Law said. The school has been closed since the shooting.

Gun was legally bought by child’s mom, officials say

A law enforcement official briefed on the matter said the gun the child brought to school was a Taurus model G2C, which advertises itself as a compact pistol “engineered specifically for everyday carry.”

The gun involved was legally purchased by the child’s mother, officials said. Another law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said police would interview the child’s mother and any others in the household about the gun, how it was stored and whether it was kept in a bedside drawer, a particular hiding place or locked in a safe.

The teacher, identified as Abby Zwerner, was “providing class instruction when the 6-year-old child displayed a firearm, pointed it at her and fired one round,” Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said at a news conference on Monday. “There was no physical struggle or fight.”

The teacher was shot in the chest, and remains in stable condition, a spokesperson for the Riverside Regional Medical Center, where Zwerner is being treated, told CNN.

The boy was under a temporary detention order and being evaluated at a hospital. School officials have not released the names of the child or the mother.

Police will work with school officials and psychologists to conduct “forensic interviews” using trauma-informed interview techniques to get information without increasing the already traumatic effect on the students, one of the law enforcement officials said.

This was the first shooting of 2023 at a US school, according to analysis by CNN. In 2022, there were 60 shootings at K-12 schools.

According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, which contains information on shootings at American schools since 1970, there have been three other cases in which the suspect was as young as 6, and they have all occurred since 2000.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Brian Todd, Sara Smart, Dakin Andone and Caroll Alvarado contributed to this report.

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