Special Grand Jury Concludes Its Investigation and Report on the Shooting at Richneck Elementary School.

[April 10, 2024  Newport News, VA] – The Special Grand Jury investigating the January 6, 2023, shooting at Richneck Elementary School has concluded its investigation, releasing a public report and charging former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker with eight counts of Felony Child Neglect, one count for each of the eight bullets that endangered all the students in Ms. Abigal Zwerner’s first grade classroom. The Special Grand Jury’s report catalogs security and administrative failures by Newport News Public Schools, and it makes recommendations for changes to protect students.

“In releasing the Special Grand Jury’s report, we acknowledge the harm inflicted on all the children in Ms. Zwerner’s classroom that day.” Said Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn. “We also acknowledge the Special Grand Jury’s recommendations for substantial changes to protect students going forward and note that the school district, now led by Superintendent Dr. Michelle Mitchell, has already started implementing additional safety measures. We thank the members of the Special Grand Jury for their diligent service.”

The Special Grand Jury consisted of eleven members, each a citizen of Newport News. It was empaneled on September 11, 2023, to investigate the shooting at Richneck Elementary School.  The Special Grand Jury was empaneled at the request of Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn, under Virginia Code § 19.2-206 (A)(iii).  They subpoenaed records and heard testimony from nineteen witnesses, including some families whose children witnessed the shooting, school faculty and staff members, district administrators, and law enforcement. They also reviewed evidence including surveillance video, body worn camera footage, and records subpoenaed from school administration.

Consistent with Virginia Code Section 19.2-213, the Grand Jury wrote and filed their report. The culmination of their work included: 1) charging former Assistant Principal Ebony Parker with eight counts of felony child neglect, 2) issuing a public report of their findings and recommendations, and 3) recommending further investigation into the failures to maintain and provide school records to law enforcement.  Child Neglect is defined by Virginia Code 18.2-371(B), and it carries a potential sentence of up to 5 years in prison for each count. Consistent with the recommendation from the report, this office will continue investigating whether individuals who worked for the school system obstructed justice.  The charges related to Assistant Principal Ebony Parker are now pending matters, and this office will not comment on the facts or evidence to be presented in that case.

See the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Press Conference on the Richneck School Shooting here

Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney
Phone: 757-926-7443
2501 Washington Avenue, 6th Floor
Newport News, VA 23607

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The Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes criminal cases that occur within the City of Newport News, on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The elected Commonwealth’s Attorney is Mr. Howard E. Gwynn.