NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – The mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher on January 6 at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News spoke out for the first time, in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on ABC’s Good Morning America.
The child’s mother, 25-year-old Deja Taylor, was indicted by a grand jury last month and charged with felony child neglect and misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child. Her trial is set to begin in August and she faces up to six years in prison. In the interview, Taylor said she doesn’t think that would be a fair punishment.
Taylor told ABC News that her son’s actions can be linked to him having ADHD, echoing a statement released by the child’s family in January. That statement said her son suffers from an “acute disability and was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day.”
As WAVY has reported, Taylor wasn’t in class with her son on the day of the shooting. Before winter break, the school decided the child’s behavior showed improvement.
Taylor said her son started taking medication and was meeting goals academically.
Calvin Taylor, the grandfather of the 6-year-old, now has legal custody. He told ABC News that before the incident, the child’s behavior seemed to change in school for the better.
“He was more attentive, he tried to follow along, he tried to do the coursework,” Calvin Taylor told ABC.
During the interview, Taylor said she is willing to take responsibility for her son’s actions since he cannot. Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney Howard Gwynn told NBC News in March that the 6-year-old would not be facing charges because the “prospect that a 6-year-old can stand trial is problematic.”
When it comes to the relationship between Taylor’s son and his first grade teacher Abby Zwerner, Taylor said her son “actually really liked” Zwerner.
In the ABC interview, Taylor referenced an incident mentioned in the $40M lawsuit Zwerner’s lawyers have filed on her behalf, where the 6-year-old allegedly slammed Zwerner’s cell phone on the ground, which resulted in it being cracked and shattered.
Taylor told ABC News that the cell phone incident happened after Zwerner told him to sit down when he asked her a question.
“He threw his arms up. He said, ‘Fine.’ And when he threw his arms up, he knocked her phone out of her hand,” Taylor told ABC News. She said it was an accident. As a result of this incident, the child was suspended.
Taylor’s attorney, James Ellenson, told ABC News Richneck Elementary enrolled the child in September, despite having knowledge of his past behavioral issues and his ADHD diagnosis. For this reason, Ellenson said school officials bear responsibility for the shooting.
“If they believed all of these behaviors to be true, then they should not have allowed him” to advance to a higher level, Ellenson said in the ABC interview.
The looming question about how the child got his hands on the gun remains unanswered. Ellenson told ABC News “nobody knows” but then clarified “we’re not ready to discuss that at this point.”
Newport News Police have said Taylor legally purchased the gun used in the school shooting.
When asked if the gun was locked up somewhere, Taylor shook her head yes.
25-year-old Abby Zwerner was critically injured in the January 6 shooting and spent a couple weeks in the hospital. In an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, Zwerner said she has had four surgeries. She said the shooting has changed her, but that she tries to stay positive.
“I just truly would like to apologize, that you know, out of the incident she did get hurt. We were actually kind of like forming a relationship, with me having to be in the classroom. She was a really bright person,” said Taylor.
To read more about the interview with Taylor, visit the ABC News website.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.