Mother of six-year-old who shot Virginia school teacher pleads guilty


Richneck Elementary School where Deja Taylor's son shot his teacherImage source, Getty Images

By Brandon Drenon

BBC News, Washington

The mother of a six-year-old who shot his teacher in a Virginia classroom has pleaded guilty to a charge of felony child neglect, US media report.

Deja Taylor, 26, entered the guilty plea as part of a deal with prosecutors to lessen the sentencing from up to six years to six months.

Her son shot Abigail Zwerner, a teacher at Richneck Elementary School in the city of Newport News, on 6 January.

Taylor’s sentencing is scheduled for 27 October.

As part of Taylor’s plea deal, a separate misdemeanour charge of reckless storing of a firearm was dropped.

James Ellenson, a lawyer for Taylor, said his client remains remorseful, although he believes no prison time will be the appropriate sentence, NBC News reported.

“She feels very responsible, feels very bad,” Mr Ellenson told reporters after the hearing.

The BBC has contacted Mr Ellenson for comment.

Taylor had previously told police she believed the gun was in her purse, secured with a trigger lock, and that the gunlock key was under her bedroom mattress.

But in her guilty plea she reportedly admitted that the gun was stored in a way that made it accessible.

An assistant Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney said in court on Tuesday the six-year-old took the gun from his mother’s purse, which was on top of a dresser, according to the Washington Post. The gun was not secured with a trigger lock, the prosecutor said.

The shooting, which made national headlines in January, cast a renewed spotlight on issues of school safety and gun violence.

Ms Zwerner was hit in the hand and chest, resulting in a weeks-long hospital stay and multiple surgeries. She filed a $40m (£31.4m) lawsuit against the school district earlier this year.

Newly revealed court documents unsealed in August added additional details about the tragic encounter.

The six-year-old is said to have admitted “I did it”, adding “I got my mom’s gun last night”, shortly after the shooting. The boy has not been charged.

Taylor had pleaded guilty in June to a federal charge of using marijuana while possessing a firearm. The sentencing in that case is also scheduled for October.

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