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Criminal charges filed against mother of 6-year-old boy who shot teacher at school


Abby Zwerner is wearing a yellow sweater and holding a sign that says "Welcome to First Grade." She is smiling and looking directly at the camera.

Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va., suffered “life-threatening” injuries after being shot by a six-year-old student on Jan. 6, 2023. [Screengrab via GoFundMe]

The mother of a 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher during class is facing criminal charges.

Deja Taylor has been charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessness in connection with the Jan. 6 shooting of teacher Abigail Zwerner, prosecutors in Newport News, Virginia, announced Monday in a press release.

Zwerner, a teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, was shot in the hand and chest on Jan. 6, suffering serious injuries. She has undergone multiple surgeries and, according to her lawyers, has not yet returned to work.

Authorities have confirmed that the shooting was not an accident.

According to the press release from the prosecutor’s office, a grand jury has now returned two indictments against the young alleged shooter’s mother.

“Deja Taylor has been charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child,” the press release said. “These charges come after a thorough investigation by Newport News Police Department and this Office.”

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

Prosecutors had previously hinted that while the boy will not face criminal charges, another “person or persons” may have to answer for the teacher’s injuries.

Zwerner has recently sued the school district for $40 million alleging that school administrators ignored repeated warnings about the boy’s dangerousness. Top officials at Richneck have since left their jobs.

Lawyers for Zwerner say that the criminal charges are but one step toward obtaining justice for Zwerner.

“There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed,” attorney Diane Toscano said in a statement Monday. “Today’s announcement addresses but one of those failures. It has been three months of investigation and still so many unanswered questions remain. Our lawsuit makes clear that we believe the school division violated state law, and we are pursuing this in civil court. We will not allow school leaders to escape accountability for their role in this tragedy.”

The press release indicated that the school may eventually face criminal charges as well.

“The Commonwealth’s Attorney has also petitioned the Circuit Court to empanel a Special Grand Jury to continue the investigation into any security issues that may have contributed to this shooting,” the press release said, adding that the grand jury’s work will be kept confidential in accordance with state law and that the investigation “will continue as long as necessary to determine whether others are criminally responsible[.]”

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