25-year-old Deja Taylor has entered a guilty plea related to the incident where her 6-year-old son shot his Virginia teacher in a school classroom, severely injuring her. The incident took place on January 6 when the boy retrieved a gun from his backpack and shot his first-grade teacher, Abigail Zwerner, at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News.
Taylor was originally accused of misdemeanor reckless storage of a firearm. However, that charge was dropped, and she admitted to felony child neglect for not securely storing the firearm her son brought to school. Her sentencing is slated for October 27, according to the Associated Press, CNN, and ABC News.
The teacher, 25-year-old Zwerner, underwent four surgeries and still has a bullet inside her. She believes that her hand, which was struck first by the bullet before it hit her chest, saved her life. Subsequently, Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school’s administrators, alleging negligence.
Following the shooting, the child reportedly said he had taken his mother’s gun. The gun was legally bought by Taylor in July 2022. Though she claimed the gun was locked and the keys stored securely, a subsequent search did not find any lockboxes or keys in her residence.
According to a press release, It was mandatory for a parent to be with the child in school due to his previous aggressive behaviors. Nevertheless, no parent was with him on the day of the shooting. Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, mentioned that Taylor had faced other challenges, including domestic abuse, which may have impacted her judgment. He stated that the boy is now with his grandparents and is benefiting from therapy.
While Taylor could face up to five years in jail for this crime, under a plea agreement, she may serve no longer than six months. Additionally, she has pleaded guilty in a separate case related to unlawful use of controlled substances with a firearm and making false statements during a firearm purchase. Her sentencing in this federal case is scheduled for October 18, with a potential of 25 years imprisonment.
For more information on safe firearm storage and the most effective ways to protect children from unsecured firearms, visit BeSMARTforkids.org.