LOS ANGELES — The mother of a six-year-old Virginia boy who shot and wounded his elementary school teacher was charged yesterday with two US firearms felonies, and her lawyer said she will plead guilty to both offences under a deal with federal prosecutors.
Deja Taylor was charged with being a user of illegal drugs in possession of a gun and of making a false statement to buy the weapon, a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. She is accused of concealing in a federal firearms transaction form that she was an unlawful user of marijuana, court records show.
The federal firearms counts are in addition to state charges on which Taylor was already indicted in connection with the January 6 shooting of her son’s first-grade teacher, Abigail Zwerner, at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.
The filing of the two-count criminal information stems from “very constructive negotiations we had with federal authorities,” Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, said in a statement.
“The terms of the agreement, which we believe will be fair to all parties, will be disclosed when we enter the guilty plea” later this week or next in federal court, he said.
Ellenson said he would present “mitigating evidence” at Taylor’s sentencing later this year.
According to police, the boy had taken the handgun from home, placed it in his backpack and removed it while Zwerner, 25, was teaching class, firing a single shot through her hand and into her chest.
Another school staffer rushed into the classroom and restrained the boy while Zwerner ushered the rest of the students from the classroom to safety, police said.
Zwerner’s lawyer, who filed a US$40 million lawsuit against school administrators on her client’s behalf, told reporters that Richneck Elementary officials had been warned three times the day of the shooting that the boy was armed.
Virginia prosecutors did not charge the boy. Instead, they charged his mother in April with felony child neglect and with the misdemeanour of recklessly leaving a loaded weapon so as to endanger a child.
Last month, the mother said during a televised interview on the ABC News program Good Morning America that she was “willing to take responsibility” for her son’s actions.
Ellenson, her lawyer, said on the programme that school officials were aware the boy was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bore responsibility for enrolling him in first grade prematurely.
He said how the child obtained the gun was a mystery.
Taylor said her mental health was frail at the time, as she was suffering from postpartum depression following a series of miscarriages and had been hospitalised for a week.
She described her son as “great kid,” but “very energetic” and “off the wall” due to his ADHD condition.
Zwerner has said the boy had been previously removed from school for violent behaviour. — Reuters