After pleading guilty to two federal firearm violations in June, Deja Taylor, the 26-year-old mother whose 6-year-old son shot his first-grade teacher in the chest at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia, in January, will now have to spend 21 months in prison.
Though she was facing a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, Taylor, who pleaded guilty to using marijuana while possessing a gun and lying about her drug use when purchasing the gun, was sentenced Wednesday to only one year and nine months in prison, Scripps News reported.
Abigail Zwerner, the 26-year-old first-grade teacher shot by Taylor's son, has filed a $40 million lawsuit against school administrators and the school board, claiming they were aware of the boy's "history of random violence" yet did not do enough to address concerns the boy had a gun in his possession on the day she was shot.
Zwerner, who testified during the sentencing hearing, talked about how the shooting changed her life.
"Not only do I bear physical scars from the shooting that will remain with me forever, I contend daily with deep, psychological scars that plague me during most waking moments and invade my dreams," she said, according to ABC News.
Zwerner, who was shot through her hand and chest, also revealed that she has already undergone five surgeries and is getting regular intensive physical therapy to restore motion in her hand.
"This permanent damage should never have been allowed to happen to me and would not have happened if not for the defendant's actions or lack thereof," she said.
Prosecutors said in the weeks before Zwerner was shot on Jan. 6 that text messages between Taylor and her son’s father show that she used the gun to shoot at him after seeing his girlfriend. No one was injured in that shooting but an unreturned U-Haul truck Taylor rented was found with the rear passenger window broken.
"Not once, but twice someone nearly lost their lives because of Taylor's offenses of conviction," prosecutors noted in court papers.
Days after she was shot, Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew called Zwerner a “hero” for her bravery in the face of danger because she made sure her entire class was safe before she went to get help for herself. Even as she lay in the hospital trying to recover from her injuries Zwerner remained concerned about her students.
In an interview with NBC, Zwerner recalled how terrified her students were after she was shot.
“They were screaming,” she said. “I think they knew as well that they had to get out of there, but they were extremely frightened and screaming.”
Drew said at about 1:59 p.m. on the day of the shooting, police received a call from the school that a teacher had been shot with no other information. Officers “from different areas” quickly converged on the school and at 2:04 p.m., two sheriff’s deputies entered the classroom where the shooting took place and found a 6-year-old male student being physically restrained by a school employee.
“The child was physically combative and struck the employee that was restraining him,” Drew said.
“Officers then took control of him and escorted him out of the building [and] placed him in a police car with an officer inside and outside of that building. Once that had occurred there was a systematic evacuation of rooms and hallways for safety as they didn’t know what they were dealing with,” he added.
Scripps News Norfolk reported from a police search warrant that immediately after the shooting, Taylor’s son made disturbing statements as he was being restrained. He allegedly stated, "I shot that b**** dead," "I did it" and "I got my mom’s gun last night."
Taylor’s family has since stated that her son has an “acute disability.”
Recalling the moment she was shot to NBC’s “Today” show, Zwerner said: "I just will never forget the look on his face that he gave me while he pointed the gun directly at me.”