Mom of Virginia boy who shot teacher gets 21 months in prison for using marijuana while owning gun

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A Virginia woman whose then-6-year-old son shot his first-grade teacher inside a classroom earlier this year was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 21 months in prison for using marijuana while owning a firearm. 

Deja Taylor’s son, who has not been identified, shot Abigail Zwerner on Jan. 6 at Richneck Elementary in Newport News, Virginia with her handgun, authorities said. Investigators later found nearly an ounce of marijuana in Taylor’s bedroom and evidence of frequent drug use in her text messages and paraphernalia. 

“This case is not a marijuana case,” federal prosecutors argued in court filings. “It is a case that underscores the inherently dangerous nature and circumstances that arise from the caustic cocktail of mixing consistent and prolonged controlled substance use with a lethal firearm.”


 Deja Taylor arrives to the federal court building in Virginia with her lawyer

Deja Taylor, the mother of a 6-year-old who shot his teacher in Virginia, was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison for using marijuana while owning a gun. (Billy Schuerman/The Virginian-Pilot via AP/File)

Taylor, 26, still faces sentencing in December on state charges for felony child neglect. Zwerner, who was seriously wounded, is suing the school system for $40 million, alleging administrators had ignored multiple warnings that the boy had a gun. 

Taylor’s attorneys had asked the judge for probation and home confinement, according to court filings, arguing that she needs counseling for issues that include schizoaffective disorder, a condition that shares symptoms with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

“Ms. Taylor is deeply saddened, extremely despondent, and completely remorseful for the unintended consequences and mistakes that led to this horrible shooting,” her attorneys wrote.

They also said Taylot needed treatment for a marijuana addiction. Sometime after her son shot his teacher, Taylor smoked two blunts, prosecutors said. She also failed drug tests while awaiting sentencing on the federal charges.


Richneck Elementary School in Newport News reopens with security

A Newport News police officer directs traffic at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Va. (AP/John C. Clark/File)

Zwerner was hit in the hand and chest and spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and has endured multiple surgeries. Moments after the shooting, according to search warrants filed in the case, the child told a reading specialist who restrained him: “I shot that (expletive) dead,” and “I got my mom’s gun last night.” 

Police said the student brought the gun to school in his backpack, which had images of sharks on it. But it remains unclear exactly how the child got the gun. 

Taylor previously fired the gun in public, prosecutors wrote. She shot at her son’s father in December after seeing him with his girlfriend.

Zwerner with NBC

Richneck Elementary School teacher Abigail Zwerner sat down with NBC for an interview a couple months after being shot by her six-year-old student in the classroom. (Screenshot/NBC)


“u kouldve killed me,” the father said to Taylor in a text message, according to a brief from prosecutors.

Taylor’s grandfather has had full custody of her son, now age 7, since the shooting, according to court documents.

Fox News Digital’s Greg Norman and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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