A grand jury in Newport News on Monday indicted the mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot a teacher at Richneck Elementary School earlier this year, according to the city’s Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.
Deja Taylor was accused of misdemeanor recklessly leaving a handgun that endangers a kid and felony child neglect.
Abby Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School, was shot by the kid on January 6. The gun, according to the police, was bought legally by Taylor, and according to Taylor’s lawyer, James Ellenson, it was locked with a trigger lock on the top shelf of Taylor’s wardrobe.
On Monday, Ellenson stated that his client intended to turn herself in this week.
“I wish to thank the NN Commonwealth Attorney’s office for extending me the courtesy of informing us of the indictments that were returned by the Grand Jury today,” Ellenson said in a statement to ABC News. “My client will be turning herself in later this week. More details will follow.”
The tweet below confirms the news:
The mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his teacher at a Virginia elementary school has been charged with felony child neglecthttps://t.co/cLAt1qemf7
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 10, 2023
The Newport News Police Department and the city’s Commonwealth Attorney’s Office conducted an investigation that led to the accusations. Charges against Taylor for those two offenses are supported by the facts and the law, the agency claimed.
According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn, “every criminal case is unique in its facts, and these faces support these allegations, but our investigation into the incident continues.”
In addition, Gwynn disclosed that he has petitioned the Newport News Circuit Court to establish a Special Grand Jury to further look into “any security vulnerabilities that may have contributed to this killing.”
The inquiry will continue until it is known whether or not any other parties engaged in the incident will also be charged.
Mother of Richneck Shooter Indicted for Felony Child Neglect in VA
A parent, guardian, or another caretaker “whose purposeful act or omission in the care of the such child was so callous, wanton, and irresponsible as to indicate a reckless disregard for human life” is guilty of a Class 6 felony, according to Virginia’s legislation on felony child neglect. The charge carries a maximum five-year jail sentence.
Virginia law prohibits “recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured handgun in such a manner as to risk the life or limb of any kid under the age of fourteen,” according to the misdemeanor accusation. The maximum sentence for that offense is one year in prison.
Steve Drew, the chief of police in Newport News, has described the gunshot as “deliberate” numerous times. He claimed there was no struggle or forewarning before the child pointed the rifle at Zwerner and shot her once in the hand and once in the chest.
Before being brought to the hospital, Zwerner, 25, hurried her kids out of the classroom and spent nearly two weeks there.
In January, Ellenson told The Associated Press that he believed the gun had a trigger lock that needed a key and was kept in Taylor’s closet on a shelf that was over 6 feet (1.8 meters) high.
The Monday indictment follows tightened security at educational facilities all around Hampton Roads and a $40 million lawsuit brought by Zwerner against several Newport News Public Schools executives for claimed negligence.
“There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed,” said Zwerner’s attorney, Diane Toscano. “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.”
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