Mother of 6-year-old Virginia boy accused of shooting teacher charged with neglect

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A grand jury in Virginia on Monday indicted the mother of a 6-year-old boy accused of shooting his first-grade teacher during class in January.

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Deja Nicole Taylor, 25, of Newport News, was charged with felony neglect and a misdemeanor count of recklessly leaving a firearm so as to endanger a child, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

After the Newport News grand jury handed down the indictment, prosecutors asked a circuit court judge to impanel a “special grand jury” to continue to investigate any security issues that may have contributed to the shooting on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary School, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Newport News prosecutors have also asked a circuit court judge to impanel a “special grand jury” to “continue the investigation into any security issues that may have contributed to this shooting.” This could include looking at Richneck administrators, the school system and anyone else.

“Their investigation will continue as long as necessary to determine whether others are criminally responsible for the shooting of Jan. 6,” the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement.

Authorities were called to Richneck Elementary School just before 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 after police said a student intentionally shot Abigail Zwerner, 25, as she was teaching her class. Police said the single shot went through her hand and into her chest.

“Every criminal case is unique in its facts, and these facts support these charges, but our investigation into the shooting continues,” the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Howard Gwynn, said in a statement.

The bullet went through Zwerner’s left hand — which she held up as the boy opened fire — and then struck her in the upper chest and shoulder, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

The teacher was able to shuttle 18 students out of the classroom before seeking medical attention, the newspaper reported. She was released from a hospital after several weeks of treatment.

During a news conference, Police Chief Steve Drew said the child used his mother’s handgun, a Taurus 9mm. She legally purchased the firearm in York County, with the boy bringing it to school in his backpack.

Zwermer’s attorney, Diane Toscano, filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school district earlier this month, alleging gross negligence and reckless breach of duty against the school board and three former administrators at the school. The suit accused school officials of failing to protect Zwerner against the student despite multiple warnings.

George Parker III, who had been superintendent of Newport News Public Schools since 2018, was terminated by the Newport News School Board by a 5-1 vote in the wake of the shooting, WTKR-TV reported.

Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker resigned from her position in late January. Karen Lynch, who has worked as a principal in Newport News for 17 years, was reassigned, according to The Associated Press.

“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.

“If the special grand jury determines that additional persons are criminally responsible under the law, it can return additional indictments.”

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