NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – A first-grade student who allegedly warned Abby Zwerner that his classmate had a gun and planned to shoot her was told by the teacher to “sit down and be quiet,” his attorney says.
Zwerner was shot and injured by her 6-year-old student while teaching her first-grade class at Richneck Elementary School on Jan. 6. On Monday, she filed a $40 million lawsuit against Newport News school officials, including the Newport News School Board, former Principal Briana Foster-Newton, former Superintendent Dr. George Parker, and former Assistant Principal Dr. Ebony Parker. The lawsuit claims they knew the 6-year-old had a history of violent behaviors and were warned he had a gun, but failed to intervene.
Emily Mapp Brannon represents several Richneck Elementary School families whose children were in the classroom and witnessed the shooting, including one referred to as Ron Doe in Zwerner’s lawsuit.
Mapp Brannon said Ron Doe tried to warn Zwerner and another teacher about the gun and the shooter’s intention to shoot Zwerner, but he was ignored.
“I believe the evidence in this case will establish that Ms. Zwerner told my client to sit down and be quiet,” Mapp Brannon said. “Following this exchange, my client became incredibly fearful for his life and sought safety in another classroom. The shooting occurred shortly thereafter.”
Mapp Brannon also said she intends to file lawsuits on their behalf for the trauma the children experienced.
“My client’s parents seek an answer to the following questions,” Mapp Brannon said. “Why didn’t Ms. Zwerner or any other teacher call 911? Could this have all been prevented with that call?”
Zwerner’s lawsuit claims that the shooter showed Ron Doe the gun at recess and threatened him if he told anyone about it. The lawsuit claims Ron Doe told another teacher about the gun, and she kept him in her classroom because he was afraid.
Zwerner is being represented by Diane Toscano and Jeffrey Breit. 10 On Your Side asked them for comment on the claims that a student warned Zwerner about the gun before she was shot.
“The school administration had a duty under Virginia law to contact law enforcement. The complaint addresses this in detail, and it speaks for itself,” the legal team said in a statement.
The claim that Zwerner was warned of the shooter’s intention to harm her ahead of the shooting was also made on Monday by Pamela Branch, the attorney representing Foster-Newton. Branch has previously said Foster-Newton was never warned that the 6-year-old had a gun.
“In addition, we are exploring the possibility of a countersuit, as it has been brought to our attention that prior to the shooting, another student in Ms. Zwerner’s class warned her in class that the six-year-old shooter had a gun and Ms. Zwerner allegedly told that student to sit down and be quiet,” Branch said. “If this is true, Ms. Zwerner may have been able to avoid the injury she suffered and this will certainly impact her claimed damages.”
Zwerner’s legal team responded to Foster-Newton’s statement on Monday.
“It sounds like the principal is now blaming Abby for getting shot. That is absurd. The unheeded warnings to the school administration were clear and the timing of when they knew the threat was on school property is spelled out in our complaint.”