News in 5: Local teacher acted heroically to protect students after 6-year-old shot her, police say

Good morning!

Warmer weather – with highs in the mid-50s to low 60s – will settle in for the remainder of the work week, according to Meteorologist April Loveland of WTKR News 3.

A chillier weekend is on tap, though. A cold front bringing rain will move into our area Thursday night into Friday morning. Daytime highs for both Saturday and Sunday will only be in the 40s.

You may notice that today’s newsletter looks a bit different. That’s because I’m now publishing on a new platform, powered by Indiegraf. I’ve also launched a new website, which you can check out here

Now to the news.

-Christin

1. ‘Hero’ Newport News teacher rushed students to safety after 6-year-old shot her, police say.

  • A local first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, is recovering in the hospital and has been hailed a hero who saved the lives of her students after a 6-year-old shot her on Jan. 6. The incident happened at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News. Zwerner, 25, of Williamsburg, was shot “intentionally” by the child, police said.
  • The shooting occurred while Zwerner was teaching her class last Friday, according to Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew.
  • “The 6-year-old child displayed a firearm, pointed it at her and fired one round,” Drew said during a news conference Monday. “There was no physical struggle or fight. She was providing instruction to her class.”
  • The bullet pierced the teacher’s hand and went through her chest. But despite sustaining life-threatening injuries, Zwerner made sure every student was safe, and “she was still able to get all of her students out of that classroom,” Drew said.
  • There were 17-20 students in the classroom when the gun went off, according to police. While the student’s motive has not been revealed, investigators recovered a shell casing and a 9 MM Taurus firearm. They also seized a cell phone and backpack at the scene.
  • “I believe she did save lives because I don’t know what else might have happened if those kids would have stayed in that room,” said Drew. “Abigail is a trooper. She is a hero.”
  • The 6-year-old suspect and his mother were interviewed at police headquarters, and investigators say the gun was purchased legally by the mother in York County. The child’s parents have not been charged in relation to the incident at this time.
    • The child is currently receiving treatment at a local medical facility, Drew said. 
    • The situation raises difficult questions for the criminal justice system because the boy is so young. According to Julie Ellen McConnell, a law professor at the University of Richmond, very young children are usually protected from criminal prosecution under a legal doctrine known as the “infancy defense.” Instead, the child may be ordered to receive social services, including counseling, McConnell said.
  • Authorities also revealed that Zwerner is now in stable condition. A candlelight prayer vigil was held in her honor outside the school division’s administrative building Monday night.
  • How you can help: A GoFundMe page has been set up by Abby’s twin sister to aid in Abby’s recovery and had received more than $125,000 in donations as of Wednesday morning. Additionally, LifePointe Church in Toano is accepting letters and cards for Abby and her family. Cards can be addressed to Abby Zwerner, c/o LifePointe Church, 8841 Richmond Rd., Toano, VA, 23188.
    • “On Sunday, [Abby’s] family asked if we would be the receiving point for letters and cards for Abby,” the church said in a Facebook post“We will receive these letters and quickly deliver them to her and the family.”
  • Newport News Superintendent George Parker said the district is considering ways to bolster security – including possibly installing metal detectors in all buildings, including elementary schools – to prevent future shootings. He admitted that while the district has safety protocols in place and trains employees for active shooter situations, they were not prepared for this type of incident.
  • “Who would be prepared for a six-year-old to bring a loaded weapon into school and shoot their teacher?” Parker asked.
  • Classes have been canceled at Richneck Elementary for the entire week, and no date has been set yet for when school will be in session again. Families with students attending Richneck have been invited to attend a virtual town hall on Thursday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 pm, where they can weigh in on plans for students to return. The meeting will also bring teachers and staff together to discuss what safety measures they want to see in order to feel safe again, 13NewsNow reports. 

Police are continuing to investigate after a local teacher, Abby Zwerner, was shot by a 6-year-old student at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy of the Newport News Police Department)

2. Restaurant Week will soon be kicking off in both Williamsburg and Newport News. 

  • Williamsburg Restaurant Week will be held Jan. 19 – 29, 2023, according to the Williamsburg Restaurant Association (WARA). The event is an annual favorite among locals and offers opportunities for diners to try a variety of different menu items for reduced prices. 
  • While WARA has not yet released its Restaurant Week menus, the organization published a list of restaurants that will be taking part in the event this year. Included among the Williamsburg Restaurant Week participants are Axe Republic, Blue Talon Bistro, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Corner Pocket, Craft 31, Dog Street Pub, Gabriel Archer Tavern at Williamsburg Winery, La Piazza, Opus 9, Second Street American Bistro, Two Drummer’s Smokehouse and the Williamsburg Lodge.
    • The WARA website will be updated as additional details and menus become available. You can also follow WARA on Facebook here
  • Newport News is also gearing up to celebrate its 10th year of offering Restaurant Week. This year’s event is set to span a full two weeks and will be held Jan. 15 – 29. Participating restaurants will be offering set menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner for affordable, fixed prices. 
  • Options are available to suit nearly every taste preference. Some of the restaurants participating in Newport News Restaurant Week include Azzurri Italian Restaurant, Bonefish Grill, Burger Theory, Cabo Grill, Circa 1918, Farmer’s Table, Juan’s Mexican Cafe and Cantina, Lormnava Afrik Cuisine, Second Street American Bistro, Saffron Mediterranean Cuisine, Sage Kitchen and Smoke BBQ Restaurant & Bar. 


Second Street American Bistro will participate in Restaurant Week this month at its locations in both Williamsburg and Newport News. (Photo by The Triangle)

3. A new Starbucks could be heading to James City County.

  • Local residents in the Norge area may soon be able to enjoy Starbucks without having to venture very far. On Wednesday, the James City County Planning Commission voted in favor of a proposal that would establish a Starbucks in Norge. 
  • The establishment would be located in the former Old Point National Bank building at 7504 Richmond Road, which is currently vacant. The new Starbucks location would include a drive-thru lane as well as a patio.
  • “We intend to minimize land disturbance as much as possible and reuse the site to the greatest extent that we can,” said Lauren Sweeney, a land development engineer for Kimley-Horn and Associates. 
  • According to Sweeney, studies conducted as part of the proposal showed there would be minimal impacts to traffic, particularly because all traffic to and from the site has dedicated turn lanes.
  • Planning commissioner Barbara Null said she supported the project because the new Starbucks would boost the local economy and provide a valuable new resource for the community.
  • “I’m glad to see somebody reuse that building and bring us some more energy and jobs,” Null said. 


Starbucks on Monticello Ave. in Williamsburg is always a popular destination. The James City County Planning Commission voted in favor of a proposal that would establish a new Starbucks in Norge. The location would feature a drive-thru and a patio. (Photo by The Triangle)

4. The teen suspect in a recent Gloucester shooting has been charged with second-degree murder.

  • A 15-year-old faces more charges in connection with a shooting in Hayes that left one man dead on New Year’s Day and sent a second victim to the hospital.
    • According to the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office, Corbin Chase Winnington, 15, was identified as the suspect in the shooting after police conducted interviews with witnesses and reviewed the evidence. While the teen fled the scene before he could be taken into custody, he turned himself in on Monday, Jan. 2.
  • Winnington was initially charged with aggravated malicious wound and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The charges were upgraded on Friday, Jan. 6, to include the second-degree murder charge as well as two counts of shooting or stabbing with intent to maim or kill, according to a news release by the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Winnington is currently detained at the Merrimac Center near Williamsburg. The case remains under active investigation, and anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office.

Lowest Gas Prices Today

  • All prices shown are per GasBuddy. To check the latest prices based on zip code, click here.

In the National News

  • Pentagon Ends Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate: The Pentagon rescinded its Covid-19 vaccine mandate Tuesday but gave commanders some discretion over whether or not to deploy unvaccinated troops, NBC News reports. The topic of vaccine mandates for military personnel has been highly divisive and forced more than 8,400 service members to leave the military for refusing the vaccine. Nonetheless, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin stated that while the mandate is ending, the military still strongly encourages vaccination for all troops. “The Department will continue to promote and encourage Covid-19 vaccination for all service members,” Austin said in the memo. 
  • Extreme Weather Hits California: Millions of California residents faced flood warnings Tuesday as powerful storms led to heavy rains, hail, landslides and severe flooding. More than 50,000 people were placed under evacuation orders, 110,000 homes and businesses lost power and at least 17 people were killed, the AP reports. “We’ve had less people die in the last two years of major wildfires in California than have died since New Year’s Day related to this weather,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
  • Damar Hamlin Makes Remarkable Recovery: Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was released from intensive care at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Monday after being hospitalized for nearly a week after suffering from cardiac arrest on the field, Reuters reports. Doctors say Hamlin is now able to walk, eat regular food and participate in ongoing therapy. “I can confirm that he is doing well. And this is the beginning of the next stage of his recovery,” said Dr. William Knight, one of Hamlin’s doctors.

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