Trey Paul, FISM News
Deja Nicole Taylor, the 25-year-old mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot and wounded his first-grade teacher with a gun in January, will face charges according to a local prosecutor in Virginia.
Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said a grand jury indicted Taylor on Monday on charges of felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child. However, Gwynn said last month he wouldn’t seek charges against the student because he was too young to understand the legal system.
The charges come after an investigation by the Newport News Police Department and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.
“Every criminal case is unique in its facts, and these facts support these charges, but our investigation into the shooting continues,” Gwynn said in a statement Monday.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney also asked a Circuit Court judge to impanel a “Special Grand Jury” to continue looking into any security issues that may have led to the shooting.
“If the Special Grand Jury determines that additional persons are criminally responsible under the law, it can return additional indictments,” Gwynn said.
James Ellenson, the attorney representing Taylor, said he was aware of the grand jury indictments.
“My client will be turning herself in later this week,” he said. “More details will follow.”
According to the New York Times, the student has an “acute disability” and his parents had been attending class with him up until the week of the shooting. In a statement, the family explained that they “will regret [their] absence on [that] day for the rest of [their] lives.”
FISM News reported in January that the first-grade teacher who was shot in the chest while teaching, 25-year-old Abby Zwerner, was hailed a hero after she was able to lead the other children safely out of her classroom while injured.
Zwerner spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and required four surgeries. In an interview with “The Today Show,” she said she has vivid memories and nightmares about that day and that “some days are better than others.”
EXCLUSIVE: Abigail Zwerner, the first-grade teacher who was shot by one of her students, is speaking for the first time to TODAY’s @SavannahGuthrie about what happened that day, and how she's doing now.
Tune into The Today Show Tuesday morning at 7:30amET for the full interview. pic.twitter.com/U4DRLw5LPs
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 20, 2023
CIVIL CASE SEEKS TO HOLD SCHOOL OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE
A lawyer representing Zwerner reacted to Monday’s grand jury indictment by saying that more people need to be held accountable for their roles in the shooting.
“There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed. Today’s announcement addresses but one of those failures,” said Diane Toscano. “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.”
Zwerner filed a lawsuit one week ago and is seeking $40 million in damages from school officials at Richneck Elementary School. She says they ignored three different warnings on the day of the shooting.
“On that day, over the course of a few hours, three different times, three times, school administration was warned by concerned teachers and employees that the boy had a gun on him at the school and was threatening people. But the administration could not be bothered,” Toscano said.
Former Superintendent George Parker III, former Richneck Principal Briana Foster-Newton, former Richneck Assistant Principal Ebony Parker, and the Newport News School Board are all listed as defendants in the lawsuit Zwerner filed.
Zwerner’s attorneys claim that all of those defendants knew the boy “had a history of random violence” and recounted an episode when they say he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.
“This tragedy was entirely preventable if the school administrator responsible for school safety had done their part and taken action when they had knowledge of imminent danger,” said Toscano.
According to a statement from the student’s family, the gun was “secured” in the home and they have “always been committed to responsible gun ownership and keeping firearms out of the reach of children.”
Investigators say his mother legally purchased the gun he used, but they haven’t confirmed it was secured like the family says it was.