Mother of 6-year-old Richneck Elementary shooter charged; prosecutors seek further grand jury investigation
Updated April 11, 8:03 a.m.
A grand jury on Monday indicted the mother of a 6-year-old student who shot his teacher at Richneck Elementary School in January.
Deja Nicole Taylor, 25, faces a felony charge of child neglect and a misdemeanor for recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child, according to a statement from the office of Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn.
She could face six years total if convicted - up to five for the felony charge and another year for the misdemeanor.
Newport News Police say Taylor’s 6-year-old son used her handgun to shoot 25-year-old Abby Zwerner. Taylor bought the gun legally in Yorktwown, police have said. An attorney for the family previously said the gun was secured.
Gwynn previously told the media he would not charge the child due to his age.
However, prosecutors have also asked the Circuit Court to assemble a special grand jury to investigate security issues that may have contributed to the shooting.
If that grand jury determines more people are criminally responsible, they may also be indicted, Gwynn said.
This follows the filing of a lawsuit by Zwerner against the Newport News school system for failing to stop the shooting.
“There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed," Zwerner's lawyer, Diane Toscano, following the announcement of charges being filed.
"[This] 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.”
Her suit contends school administrators were aware of previous behavior issues with the boy and were warned several times, by multiple staff members, that the boy was armed and posed a threat the day he shot Zwerner in the hand and chest.
She argues the adminstration ignored the warnings and were negligent in their failure to address the threat. Zwerner is seeking $40 million in damages.
The school district has already fired Superintendent George Parker and the principal in charge of Richneck Elementary has been reassigned. The assistant principal that Zwerner's suit said recieved the warnings the day of the shooting has resigned from Newport News Public Schools.
And the Uvalde Foundation for Kids, a Texas non-profit that supports schools after school shootings, announced it was taking back a grant to Richneck after "abject failure" by administrators there. The foundation said it instead plans to give the grant directly to Zwerner.
Gwynn's office said in the statement they "will make no further public comment about these proceedings while they are pending."