Mother of Virginia 6-year-old who shot teacher sentenced to 21 months in federal case

The mother of the 6-year-old boy accused of shooting his first-grade teacher during class in Newport News, Virginia, in January was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison on federal charges.

Deja Taylor was charged with using marijuana while in possession of a firearm and making a false statement about her drug use while purchasing the firearm, both felonies, in the wake of the Richneck Elementary School shooting in January.

She pleaded guilty to the charges in June.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 21-month sentence. She faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison.

Police say the 6-year-old student brought a gun into his classroom and intentionally shot and wounded his teacher, Abby Zwerner, on Jan. 6. Zwerner suffered a gunshot wound through his hand and into his chest.

Federal prosecutors said the firearm used in the shooting was purchased by Taylor in July 2022. ATF agents never found a lock box, a trigger lock or a key for the gun, prosecutors said.

Zwerner testified during the sentencing hearing about the ultimate impact of the shooting.

“Not only do I carry physical scars from the shooting that will stay with me forever, I struggle daily with deep, psychological scars that plague me in most waking moments and invade my dreams,” she said.

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She said she has undergone five surgeries and regular intensive physical therapy to restore movement in her hand.

“This permanent injury should never have been allowed to happen to me and would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions or lack thereof,” she said.

In the weeks before the classroom shooting, Taylor’s firearm was also involved in a separate shooting, prosecutors said. An unreturned U-Haul truck rented by Taylor was found with the rear passenger window smashed, and text messages between Taylor and her son’s father revealed she shot her son’s father after seeing her boyfriend, prosecutors said. No one was injured, and the police were not called, according to the prosecutor’s office.

“Not once, but twice, someone nearly lost their life because of Taylor’s violations of sentencing,” prosecutors said in the lawsuits.

Prosecutors also said in the filings that Taylor was a “marijuana addict whose chronic, persistent and indeed life-affecting abuse extends this case far beyond any occasional and/or recreational use.”

It is not legal to possess marijuana while carrying a gun, according to federal law.

Taylor’s attorney said in a statement to ABC News that the defendant is “extremely contrite and contrite and takes full responsibility for his actions.”

“At no time did she intend for any of these consequences to occur, especially the tragic shooting of the wonderful teacher at the elementary school,” said the attorney, Gene Rossi. “We hope that when she serves her sentence and when she gets out, she will get the treatment she absolutely needs for her addiction, her illness and the challenges she has in her life. I am confident that she will get a wonderful recovery. in the near future.”

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Taylor was also indicted on state charges related to the shooting. She pleaded guilty to child neglect in August and has not yet been sentenced. A charge of endangering a child by reckless possession of a firearm was dropped.

Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against her school district, accusing them of negligence. Attorneys for the school board sought to dismiss her claim, arguing that her injuries are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation law. Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the trial can continue.