NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – New information uncovered in court records reveals disturbing details surrounding a 6-year-old who shot his teacher at Richneck Elementary School in Virginia earlier this year.
The child is accused of shooting his first-grade teacher, Abby Zwerner, in her Newport News classroom on Jan. 6. Zwerner survived gunshot wounds to her hand and chest. She filed a $40 million lawsuit against the Newport News School Board and several former administrators in April alleging that they failed to protect her from the 6-year-old boy despite warnings that he had a gun at the school.
The boy’s mother, Deja Taylor, is charged in Newport News Circuit Court with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor for recklessly leaving a loaded firearm where a child could access it. She’s scheduled to plead guilty to those charges on August 15. She also pleaded guilty to lying on a federal form about her marijuana use when she bought the gun her son used in the shooting.
Nexstar’s WAVY obtained a probable cause statement and an affidavit for a search warrant from Newport News Circuit Court. It says that police arrived at Richneck Elementary School just after 2 p.m. on Jan. 6 and found the 6-year-old in Zwerner’s classroom with a handgun on the floor.
The boy was restrained by a reading specialist who told police the boy admitted to getting his mother’s gun the night before and shooting Zwerner. The employee told police the boy said, “I shot the (expletive) dead.”
The reading specialist also told detectives that two students in the boy’s classroom told her that he had a gun in his book bag. The reading specialist also told police that they searched the boy’s book bag with a school administrator while the class was at recess, but they didn’t find a gun.
Zwerner’s lawsuit alleges that Richneck’s former Assistant Principal Dr. Ebony Parker was warned that the boy had a gun three times by teachers and employees, but she failed to act.
Detectives also interviewed Zwerner, who told them she’d broken her class up into reading groups after recess. She saw the 6-year-old standing by his desk when he pulled a gun out of his jacket pocket and pointed it at her. Zwerner asked the boy, “What are you doing with that?” She told police he paused before firing one shot that hit her.
Zwerner also told detectives she’d reported several disciplinary incidents involving the same boy to Richneck school administrators. She said several of those incidents involved violence or threats of violence.
WAVY reached out to Zwerner’s legal team, but they declined to comment on the information revealed in the search warrant.
Detectives interviewed the child’s former kindergarten teacher, now retired, who said the child “placed both of his arms around her neck, pulling down, choking her to the point she could not breathe.” Another teacher had to forcibly remove him from the classroom, according to court records.
In another interview, Taylor told police she believed the gun was in her purse with a trigger lock on top of her bedroom dresser the morning of the shooting, and that the key for the lock was kept under her mattress, court records state.
James Ellenson is representing Taylor in Newport News Circuit Court. He said, “The child, he’s obviously got a lot of issues, and he’s in therapy. We’re all pulling for his continued improvement.”