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Tipsheet

Mother of Six-Year-Old Boy Who Intentionally Shot VA Teacher Faces Criminal Charges

Steve Helber

These charges aren’t exactly a surprising development. Newport News, Virginia, was the site of another school shooting earlier this year. On January 6, one of her students shot Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner. It was an intentional act by the six-year-old, who was known to be a troublemaker by the staff. Reportedly, the student’s parents had to accompany their child to prevent disorder; they were not at school on the day of the shooting. Now, the mother of the six-year-old shooter has been slapped with negligence charges over this preventable tragedy (via WaPo): 

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The mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot a teacher at a Virginia school in January has been charged criminally in connection with the case, and a special grand jury will be convened to explore others’ conduct, authorities said Monday. 

Deja Taylor, 25, of Newport News, is facing one felony count of child neglect and one misdemeanor count of recklessly storing a firearm so a child could gain access to it. The weapon the boy used belonged to Taylor, authorities have said. If convicted, Taylor could face up to five years in prison on the felony and up to a one year on the misdemeanor. 

Howard Gwynn, the Newport News commonwealth’s attorney, said in a statement that he also has asked a judge to impanel a special grand jury to continue to probe any “security issues” that “may have contributed to this shooting,” suggesting that the conduct of administrators or others who allegedly failed to act after being warned the boy had a weapon would be further scrutinized. 

“The safety and security of Newport News students is of utmost importance,” Gwynn said in a statement. “The Special Grand Jury will investigate to determine whether additional charges against additional persons are justified by the facts and the law.” 

[…] 

James Ellenson, an attorney for the boy’s family, wrote in a brief email “my client will be turning herself in later this week,” but did not offer comment on the charges. He said previously in an interview that the gun was stored with a trigger lock and placed on the top shelf of the mother’s bedroom closet. He said it was unclear how the boy accessed the weapon. Authorities have said the mother purchased the gun legally. 

Newport News police have declined to comment on the family’s characterization of how the gun was stored. 

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Isn’t that a critical part of the case and this indictment? The locals of Newport News have a right to know how this weapon was stored, a key aspect of this investigation. How this child obtained the firearm remains a mystery, despite the charges. 

Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school district, claiming gross negligence, adding that she warned officials that the student might have a firearm on the day of the shooting (via Associated Press): 

A Virginia teacher who was shot and seriously wounded by her 6-year-old student filed a lawsuit Monday seeking $40 million in damages from school officials, accusing them of gross negligence and of ignoring multiple warnings the day of the shooting that the boy was armed and in a “violent mood.” 

Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, was shot in the hand and chest on Jan. 6 as she sat at a reading table in her classroom. The 25-year-old teacher spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and required four surgeries. 

The shooting sent shock waves through the military shipbuilding community and the country, with many wondering how a child so young could access a gun and shoot his teacher. 

The lawsuit names as defendants the Newport News School Board, former Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck principal Briana Foster-Newton and former Richneck assistant principal Ebony Parker.

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Zwerner was able to escort the rest of her class to safety before collapsing from blood loss on the day of the shooting. Mr. Parker was fired by the school district shortly after the shooting.

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