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Virginia mom whose son shot teacher sentenced on federal gun charges

Deja Taylor pleaded guilty in June to using marijuana while possessing a gun and lying about her drug use when purchasing the gun.
Virginia mom whose son shot teacher sentenced on federal gun charges
Posted at 5:05 PM, Nov 15, 2023

The mother of a 6-year-old boy who police said shot his first-grade teacher in Virginia classroom earlier this year was sentenced Wednesday to one year and nine months in prison after pleading guilty to two federal firearm violations. 

Deja Taylor, 26,  pleaded guilty in June to using marijuana while possessing a gun and lying about her drug use when purchasing the gun.

Taylor's son took her 9mm handgun to school and shot Richneck Elementary School teacher Abby Zwerner in her first-grade classroom in January, seriously wounding the educator. 

Investigators later found nearly an ounce of marijuana in Taylor’s bedroom when they searched her home less than two weeks after the shooting as well as evidence of frequent drug use in her text messages and paraphernalia.

Additionally, Taylor falsely said that she was not an unlawful user of marijuana or other controlled substances on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives form she filled out when purchasing the gun, according to court documents. 

Despite marijuana use being legal in Virginia since 2021, it is still a federal charge to use the “illegal drug” while owning a gun. Some U.S. courts in other parts of the country have ruled against the federal law. But it’s still in effect in other states and has recently been used to charge President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. 

Before the sentencing, prosecutors asked for a judge to revoke her bond after she tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. 

Taylor’s legal team argued that despite facing a serious substance abuse problem, she was making progress. The judge allowed her to remain out on bond, stating that he was “appreciative” of Taylor’s efforts to get clean.

In a "position on sentencing" document filed last week, prosecutors requested 21 months for Taylor – which is exactly what the judge ruled. Taylor has also pleaded guilty to a state felony child neglect charge and is scheduled to be sentenced on that charge in December.

Meanwhile, Zwerner is suing the school system for $40 million, alleging administrators ignored multiple warnings the boy had a gun. The 25-year-old teacher spent nearly two weeks in the hospital and underwent four surgeries. 

In the lawsuit, her attorneys said school officials knew the boy “had a history of random violence” at school and at home, including an episode the year before when he “strangled and choked” his kindergarten teacher.

Immediately after the shooting, Taylor’s son made disturbing statements while being restrained by another teacher at the school. The boy said "I shot that b**** dead," "I did it" and "I got my mom’s gun last night," Scripps News Norfolk reported from a police search warrant. 

Taylor’s son told authorities he obtained the gun by climbing onto a drawer to reach the top of a dresser, where the firearm was in his mom’s purse. Taylor initially told investigators she had secured her gun with a trigger lock, but investigators never found one when they searched her home. 

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

The shooting at the school was not the first time Taylor's gun was fired in public, prosecutors said. Taylor shot at her son's father in December after seeing him with his girlfriend, according to the Associated Press.

This story was originally published by Madeline Miller and Anthony Sabella at Scripps News Norfolk

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