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Mom of six-year-old boy who shot Virginia teacher breaks silence

The mother of a six-year-old boy who allegedly shot his teacher in her classroom has broken her silence to say she takes responsibility for the youngster’s actions.

First-grade teacher Abby Zwerner was shot and wounded by the boy at Richneck Elementary on 6 January and has sued the Newport News School District for $40m.

Following an investigation police announced that no charges would be brought against the boy, but his mother, Deja Taylor, has been charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanour recklessly leaving a loaded firearm as to endanger a child.

Deja Taylor, the mother of a six-year-old boy who allegedly shot his teacher in her classroom has broken her silence to say she takes responsibility for the youngster’s actions. She appeared along with boy’s legal guardian Calvin Taylor and lawyer James Ellenson (ABC News)
Deja Taylor, the mother of a six-year-old boy who allegedly shot his teacher in her classroom has broken her silence to say she takes responsibility for the youngster’s actions. She appeared along with boy’s legal guardian Calvin Taylor and lawyer James Ellenson (ABC News)

Investigators say that her son allegedly took a handgun from their home, put it in his backpack and took it into school where he is accused of shooting Ms Zwerner.

She suffered critical injuries in the incident but is expected to make a full recovery.

Now Ms Taylor, who faces up to six years in prison if convicted, says that her son’s alleged actions can be explained by the fact he suffers from ADHD.

“I am, as a parent, obviously willing to take responsibility for him because he can’t take responsibility,” Ms Taylor, who is set to face trial on 15 August, told ABC News in her first interview.

And she apologised to the teacher for what she has had to go through.

“I just truly would like to apologise that ... she (Zwerner) did get hurt. We were actually kind of forming a relationship with me having to be in the classroom. And she is really a bright person,” she said.

In her lawsuit, Ms Zwerner’s lawyers have said that the school ignored multiple warnings about the boy’s behaviour and characterised him as having a “history of random violence.”

His mother told the news outlet that her son was a “great kid” but that his health condition made him “very energetic.”

“He’s off the wall. Doesn’t sit still, ever,” she said.

She went on to say that her son “actually really liked” the teacher he shot and that during the week of the shocking incident he “felt like he was being ignored.”

Newport News teacher Abigail Zwerner
Newport News teacher Abigail Zwerner

And she said that prior to the incident, he slammed a phone hard on the ground when Ms Zwerner told him to sit down as he asked her a question.

“You know, most children, when they are trying to talk to you, and if you easily just brush them off, or you ask them to sit down, or you’re dealing with something else and you ask them to go and sit down, at 6 (years old) you… in your mind would believe that ‘Somebody’s not listening to me’ and you have a tantrum,” Ms Taylor explained.

“He threw his arms up. He said, ‘Fine.’ And when he threw his arms up, he knocked her phone out of her hand on accident,” she said.

The boy was suspended after that incident and the shooting took place the day that he returned to the classroom, according to the teacher’s lawsuit.

Newport News Public Schools told ABC News it could not comment on issues surrounding “a student’s educational record.”

Ms Taylor’s family claims that a member was not present on the day of the shooting as the school had told them they no longer needed to be present in the classroom.

School Shooting Newport News (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
School Shooting Newport News (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Her grandfather, Calvin Taylor, who has legal custody of the boy, told the outlet that the youngster’s “behaviour had changed (in a positive way) in the classroom,” before the shooting.

“He was more attentive, he tried to follow along, he tried to do the coursework,” Mr Taylor said. “But in all fairness to the other kids in the class, sometimes it was just too much for him.”

Mr Ellenson said that the gun had been legally purchased and that “nobody knows” how the boy had got hold of it as it had been locked away.

The youngster remains in the custody of Mr Taylor and is back in school and receiving therapy.

“January 6 was a terrible day for a lotta people,” he added. “A terrible day for the teacher, a terrible day for the kids that was in that classroom, a terrible day for my great-grandson, and a terrible day for the community and my other family members and friends.”