NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Deja Taylor, the Virginia mother of the 6-year-old boy who shot his first-grade teacher in January, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for using marijuana while owning a firearm.
Taylor appeared in a U.S. District Court on Wednesday to receive her sentence, the first measure of accountability for January’s shooting. She pleaded guilty in June to federal charges of using drugs while having a gun and lying about her drug use when purchasing the weapon.
On January 6, Taylor’s 6-year-old son shot his teacher Abby Zwerner at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, using his mother’s gun.
Police say the boy fired one shot at Zwerner in her first-grade classroom. The bullet went through her hand and into her chest. She is still recovering from her injuries.
Court documents show police found marijuana in Taylor’s home after the shooting. Federal prosecutors in Virginia argued in court filings that Taylor’s “chronic, persistent and … life-affecting abuse extends this case far beyond any occasional and/or recreational use.”
“This case is not a marijuana case,” they wrote. “It is a case that underscores the inherently dangerous nature and circumstances that arise from the caustic cocktail of mixing consistent and prolonged controlled substance use with a lethal firearm.”
Taylor’s attorneys had asked the judge for probation and home confinement, according to court filings. They argued Taylor needs counseling for issues that include schizoaffective disorder, a condition that shares symptoms with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. They also said she needs treatment for marijuana addiction.
“Addiction is a disease and incarceration is not the cure,” her attorneys wrote.
Through a plea agreement, Taylor was set to serve between 18 months to two years in federal prison.
Taylor also pleaded guilty to state charges of child neglect. She has a court hearing in December on the state charges. Taylor’s grandfather has had full custody of her son, now age 7, since the shooting, according to court documents.
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.
Immediately after the shooting, the child told a reading specialist who restrained him: “I shot that (expletive) dead,” and “I got my mom’s gun last night,” according to search warrants.
Zwerner is suing the school system for $40 million, alleging that administrators ignored multiple warnings the boy had a gun.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.