On Monday, the office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Newport News, Virginia, announced that the mother of a 6-year-old who shot his first-grade teacher in January had been indicted on counts of felony child neglect and one count of negligently leaving a handgun to endanger a child.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Newport News, Howard Gwynn, indicated last month that the youngster would not be criminally charged. Police said that on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School, Deja Taylor’s kid shot his teacher, 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, leaving her with gunshot wounds to the hand and chest.
An attorney for the family told CNN in January that Taylor had purchased the rifle and had it locked up on the top shelf of her bedroom closet with a trigger lock. Police say the boy had the gun in his backpack when he arrived at school.
The police and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office conducted a “thorough investigation,” leading to the indictment, as stated in the press release. In a statement released on Tuesday, one of the family’s attorneys, James Ellenson, stated that Taylor, 26, “has cooperated from the first day of the occurrence,” and that she plans to turn herself in by 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.
Zwerner filed a lawsuit against the school district and its governing board earlier this month, claiming they knew of the student’s “history of random violence” and failed to take appropriate action when they learned the youngster was in possession of a pistol on the day of the shooting.
Last Thursday, Ellenson claimed that the charges in the complaint against the youngster and the family “should be treated with a heavy grain of salt.” Without more comment on the complaint, Ellenson added, “We of course continue to pray for Ms. Zwerner’s complete recovery,”
An attorney representing Zwerner claims in the case, which seeks $40 million in compensatory damages, that teachers and officials at Richneck Elementary School knew the youngster was violent at home but did not place him in special education classrooms.
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“because of his violent tendencies,” the court record states, the 6-year-old was compelled to have a parent present during the school day for the first half of the school year. According to the complaint, however, on that particular day, school administrators “allowed him to remain unsupervised without a one-on-one companion during the school day.”
The lawsuit further claims the school’s then-assistant administrator ignored concerns and warning indications identified by many instructors and staff members, including that the 6-year-old may have had a pistol in his hands in the hours preceding the shooting on January 6.
The complaint quotes a guidance counselor and an official at the elementary school as saying that assistant principal Ebony Parker “forbade” instructors from inspecting the 6-year-old for a pistol because “his mother would be there soon to take him up.”
“We feel the school division violated state law,” Diane Toscano, Zwerner’s attorney, said Monday about the complaint. “There were failures in accountability at multiple levels that led to Abby being shot and almost killed. Today’s announcement addresses but one of those failures,” Toscano said in an email.
“It has been three months of investigation and still so many unanswered questions remain.” Parents were outraged by the occurrence, and the school board quickly voted to fire Superintendent George Parker III. Principal Briana Foster Newton was relocated to another school within the district, but the district would not specify which one.
Ebony Parker resigned two weeks after the shooting. But, CNN has yet to hear back from Parker regarding his comments on the lawsuit. According to the press statement from the Commonwealth’s Attorney, the circuit court has also requested the impaneling of a special grand jury to continue the investigation.
“The Special Grand Jury will investigate to determine whether additional charges against additional persons are justified by the facts and the law,” Gwynn said in the release. “If the Special Grand Jury determines that additional persons are criminally responsible under the law, it can return additional indictments.”
According to an interview Zwerner gave to NBC in March, her first media appearance since the incident, she will never forget the look on the child’s face as he pointed 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.”
After being asked how she was doing, Zwerner replied, “I’ve been doing Alright. It’s been hard to do.” “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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