Mother of 6-year-old who shot Virginia teacher indicted

Posted at 4:47 PM, April 10, 2023 and last updated 4:48 PM, May 11, 2023

By: Heather Eckstine

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WTKR) — A grand jury indicted the mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, at Richneck Elementary School on Monday, according to the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn.

Gwynn says 25-year-old Deja Taylor of Newport News was charged with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of recklessly leaving a firearm as to endanger a child.

Booking photo of Deja Taylor

Deja Taylor is charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm to endanger a child. (Richmond Police/WTKR)

Gwynn says the charges come after a “thorough investigation by Newport News Police Department and this Office.”

Based on that investigation, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office determined that the facts and the law supported charging Taylor with the two offenses, according to Gwynn.

READ MORE: Virginia teacher shot by 6-year-old: ‘I thought I had died’

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

Newport News prosecutors have also asked a Circuit Court judge to impanel a “special grand jury” to “continue the investigation into any security issues that may have contributed to this shooting.

This could include looking at Richneck administrators, the school system, and possibly anyone else and could take months, possibly leading to more indictments, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office.

“The safety and security of Newport News students is of utmost importance,” said Gwynn. “The Special Grand Jury will investigate to determine whether additional charges against additional persons are justified by the facts and the law. If the Special Grand Jury determines that additional persons are criminally responsible under the law, it can return additional indictments.”

Abby Zwerner in classroom

In this undated photo provided by her family and lawyers, Abigail Zwerner, a first-grade teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, is shown inside her classroom. (Family of Abigail Zwerner via AP)

RELATED: Lawsuit filed by Virginia teacher details day she was shot

The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office says while the proceedings are pending, they will not make any further comment.

Zwerner’s lawyer, Diane Toscano, released the following statement to WTKR regarding the mother being charged.

“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. 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.”

James Ellenson, the attorney representing Taylor and the 6-year-old’s family, released a statement to WTKR, saying, “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. My client will be turning herself in later this week. More details will follow.”

This story was originally published on April 10 by WTKR in Norfolk, an E.W. Scripps Company.