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6-year-old who shot his teacher allegedly choked another and threatened students, attorney says

<i>Jay Paul/Getty Images</i><br/>Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School following a shooting on January 6 in Newport News
Getty Images
Jay Paul/Getty Images
Police tape hangs from a sign post outside Richneck Elementary School following a shooting on January 6 in Newport News

By Sara Smart, Brian Todd, Aileen Graef and Aya Elamroussi, CNN

The 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher in a Virginia school had a history of disturbing behavior, including cursing at staff members, trying to whip students with his belt and choking a teacher, according to a legal notice sent to the school board.

The allegations were detailed in a January 24 legal notice by attorney Diane Toscano, who sent the letter to the Newport News School Board to inform officials of a lawsuit her client, teacher Abigail Zwerner, plans to file against administrators at Richneck Elementary School.

The student shot and wounded Zwerner on January 6, leaving her critically injured from a bullet that struck her chest. She was released from the hospital more than a week after the shooting.

The child displayed some warning signs of violence, according to instances described by Toscano in the legal notice. The student’s family said previously the child has a disability.

Two days before the shooting, the student allegedly “slammed” and broke Zwerner’s cell phone and cursed at guidance counselors, which led to his suspension, according to the document. After the one-day suspension, he returned to Zwerner’s classroom and shot her.

On the day of the shooting, another teacher overheard Zwerner say the 6-year-old student was in a “violent mood,” had threatened to beat up a kindergartner at the school and “angrily stared down the security officer,” according to the legal notice.

Parker was allegedly informed of reports a gun was in school around 12:30 p.m. on the day of the shooting, but instead of calling the police, “she did not follow proper protocol and chose to do absolutely nothing,” the legal notice claims. Zwerner was shot around 2 p.m., the notice says.

“It is a miracle that more people were not harmed,” the legal notice says. “The shooter spent his entire recess with a gun in his pocket … with his hand in that pocket while lots of first grade students played,” the legal notice states.

CNN obtained the legal notice Tuesday from the Newport News School District through a Freedom of Information Act request. The district did not comment beyond providing the document to CNN.

Parker resigned on January 25, nearly three weeks after the shooting and one day after the legal notice was sent to the school board. CNN reached out to Parker for comment on Tuesday but did not immediately receive a response.

Following the shooting, the school closed for roughly three weeks and returned with added security measures including metal detectors and clear backpacks.

The response from the district was swift, with the school board voting to oust Superintendent Dr. George Parker III. Briana Foster Newton, the former principal at Richneck Elementary School, was reassigned to another location, but the district did not say where.

Pamela Branch, an attorney for Newton, has said the former principal was not aware of the gun at the school.

“The fact of the matter is that those who were aware that the student may have had a gun on the premises that day did not report this to Mrs. Newton at all,” Branch said.

The school district told CNN previously that it could not comment on whether Newton or anyone else was made aware of a potential gun on campus because that is part of an ongoing investigation.

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