But the shooting was intentional, according to police.
"This was not an accidental shooting," Newport News police chief Steve Drew revealed at a press conference, explaining there was an "altercation" that preceded the shooting.
Officials, however, are not saying what led up to the altercation, and law enforcement has declined to say how the child obtained access to the firearm or who owns it. Police have also not said anything about the child's parents. The child was taken into police custody, but officials are not saying where he is being held.
Newport News Mayor Phillip Jones confirmed the child is being cared for.
"It is almost impossible to wrap our minds around the fact that a 6-year-old first grader brought a loaded handgun to school and shot a teacher; however, this is exactly what our community is grappling with today," Jones said in a statement. "This is still an active investigation, and the Newport News Police Department is working diligently to get an answer to the question we are all asking — how did this happen?"
What will happen next?
Police officers have not revealed what criminal charges they will pursue, but the situation is incredibly complicated because of the child's age.
From the Associated Press:
Virginia law does not allow 6-year-olds to be tried as adults. In addition, a 6-year-old is too young to be committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice if found guilty.
A juvenile judge would have authority, though, to revoke a parent’s custody and place a child under the purview of the Department of Social Services.
Fortunately, Zwerner's situation has since improved, though she remains hospitalized.