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Home NewsCNN Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher turns herself in on child neglect charge, her attorney says

Mother of 6-year-old who shot teacher turns herself in on child neglect charge, her attorney says

by Johnson Jr.
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Originally Published: 13 APR 23 16:41 ET

Updated: 14 APR 23 10:01 ET

By Eric Levenson, Brian Todd and Sara Smart, CNN

    (CNN) — The mother of a 6-year-old student who shot his first-grade teacher in a classroom in Newport News, Virginia, earlier this year turned herself in Thursday on charges of child neglect and recklessly leaving a firearm so as to endanger a child, her attorney said.

Deja Taylor surrendered to the Newport News Sheriff’s Office and was later released on $5,000 bond, attorney James Ellenson told CNN.

The indictments against Taylor, 26, were announced Monday in a press release from the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Ellenson said in a statement Tuesday his client has no criminal record, has cooperated since the shooting occurred and planned to turn herself in before the end of the week.

“As always, first and foremost is the continued health and wellbeing of all persons involved in the incident at Richneck Elementary School, to include both the teacher and Deja’s son,” the statement said.

The charges were handed down three months after the shooting at Richneck Elementary School in which the 6-year-old shot his teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner. She suffered gunshot wounds to her hand and chest but survived.

The gun was purchased by Taylor and was kept on the top shelf of her bedroom closet, secured by a trigger lock, Ellenson told CNN in January. The child brought the gun to school in his backpack, police said.

The child will not be criminally charged, Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn said last month.

Prosecutors investigating potential security issues

The Commonwealth’s Attorney said the office has asked the Circuit Court to empanel a special grand jury to investigate “any security issues that may have contributed to the shooting.”

Zwerner filed a lawsuit this month alleging school administrators and the school board were aware of the student’s “history of random violence” and did not act proactively amid concerns over a firearm in the boy’s possession the day of the shooting.

In the lawsuit, which seeks $40 million in compensatory damages, an attorney for Zwerner alleges the 6-year-old was required to be accompanied by a parent during the school day “because of his violent tendencies.” But that day, school administrators “allowed him to remain unaccompanied without a one-on-one companion during the school day,” the complaint says.

The suit also alleges the school’s then-assistant principal ignored concerns and warning signs flagged by several teachers and staff members, including that the 6-year-old may have had a firearm in his possession in the hours leading up to the January 6 shooting.

A guidance counselor and administrator at the elementary school said assistant principal Ebony Parker also “forbade” teachers from searching the 6-year-old for a firearm, saying his “mother would be arriving soon to pick him up,” the complaint says.

The boy has an “acute disability” and was under a care plan which required a parent to attend school with him, though he was unaccompanied on the day of the shooting, the family has said in a statement. “We will regret our absence on this day for the rest of our lives,” the statement read.

The disturbing shooting drew harsh criticism from parents and led the school board to vote to oust superintendent George Parker III. Ebony Parker, the assistant principal, resigned two weeks after the shooting and the principal, Briana Foster Newton, was reassigned to another school, though the district did not say where.

CNN has requested comment from Ebony Parker about the lawsuit but has not heard back.

Last month, Zwerner told NBC she can’t forget the look on the child’s face as he aimed the gun at her.

“I remember him pointing the gun at me, I remember the look on his face,” Zwerner said. “I remember the gun going off.”

She said her recovery has been “challenging.”

“Some days are not-so-good days where I can’t get up out of bed,” she told NBC. “Some days are better than others where I’m able to get out of bed and make it to my appointments. But from going through what I’ve gone through, I try to stay positive.”

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Police at Richneck Elementary School
**This image is for use with this specific article only** Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Virginia, on January 30, weeks after a 6-year-old student shot a teacher.
Billy Schuerman/AP
13 Apr 23
Police look on as students return to Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Va., on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. The elementary school where a 6-year-old boy shot his teacher reopened Monday with stepped-up security and a new administrator, as nervous parents and students expressed optimism about a return to the classroom. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

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