Woman whose 6-year-old son shot teacher, jailed

The mother of a 6-year-old boy accused of shooting his first-grade teacher during class in Newport News, Virginia, has been sentenced 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 during the purchase of the firearm, both felonies, in the wake of the January shooting at Richneck Elementary School. She pleaded guilty to the charges in June.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 21-month sentence. She faced a maximum penalty 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 sustained a gunshot wound through her hand and into her chest.

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

Zwerner testified during the sentencing hearing on the last impact of the shooting.

“Not only do I bear physical scars from the shooting that will remain with me forever, I contend daily with deep, psychological scars that plague me during most waking moments and invade my dreams,” she said.

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

“This permanent damage should never have been allowed to happen to me and would not have happened if not 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 passenger rear window broken, and text messages between Taylor and her son’s father revealed she shot at her son’s father after seeing his girlfriend, prosecutors said.

No one was injured and police were not called, prosecutors said.

“Not once, but twice someone nearly lost their lives because of Taylor’s offenses of conviction,” prosecutors said in court filings.

Prosecutors also said in the filings that Taylor was a “marijuana abuser, 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 possessing a gun, according to federal laws.

Taylor’s attorney said in a statement to ABC News that the defendant is “extremely remorseful and contrite and takes full responsibility for her 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,” the attorney, Gene Rossi, said. “We are hopeful that when she serves her sentence, and when she gets out, she gets the absolutely needed treatment for her addiction, her disease and the challenges she has in her life. I am confident that she is going to have a wonderful rebound in the near future.”

Taylor was also indicted on state charges in connection with the shooting.

She pleaded guilty to child neglect in August and has yet to be sentenced. A misdemeanor charge of endangering a child by reckless storage of a firearm was dropped.

Zwerner filed a $40 million lawsuit against her school district, accusing them of negligence. The school board’s lawyers sought to dismiss her claim, arguing her injuries are covered under the state’s worker’s compensation law. Earlier this month, a judge ruled the lawsuit can proceed.

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