NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - In the moments after a 6-year-old shot his teacher in a Virginia classroom last January, the boy made statements including "I shot that (expletive) dead," and "I did it. I got my mom’s gun last night," according to recently unsealed police search warrants.
The new court documents in the city of Newport News offer fresh details regarding a shooting that critically wounded a first-grade teacher and shocked the nation.
The teacher, Abby Zwerner, survived despite being shot in the hand and chest and is suing the Newport News Public Schools for $40 million. The 6-year-old’s mother, Deja Taylor, was charged with felony child neglect and a misdemeanor count of reckless storage of a firearm. A plea hearing for Taylor’s case is set for next week.
The search warrants, which were unsealed after six months, said a reading specialist at Richneck Elementary was walking by Zwerner’s classroom when she heard a gunshot.
"Several children ran out of classroom #11," the warrants stated. The reading specialist then saw Zwerner run past while bleeding from her hand and upper torso.
The specialist entered Zwerner’s classroom and saw the boy standing by his desk with the handgun on the floor nearby, the warrants stated. The specialist grabbed the child and held him in place until police arrived.
"While restraining him, (the child) made statements like, ‘I shot that (expletive) dead.’ And ‘I did it.’ ‘I got my mom’s gun last night,’" the warrants said.
When police arrived, they found a loaded 9 mm handgun on the classroom floor and eventually found a spent shall casing nearby, the search warrants stated.
Zwerner was later interviewed at the hospital. She told investigators that, before the shooting, she had broken up her first-grade class into reading groups following recess.
The 6-year-old boy was standing by his desk when he pulled a gun from his jacket pocket and pointed it at Zwerner, who asked the child, "What are you doing with that?"
The 6-year-old "paused and then fired one shot that struck Zwerner in her left hand and upper torso," the warrants said.
Newport News investigators also interviewed the child’s mother at police headquarters.
"Ms. Taylor stated she either stores her firearm in her purse with a trigger lock in place, or in a lock box," the warrants said. "Ms. Taylor believes on the morning of January 6, 2023, that her firearm was stored in her purse with the trigger lock in place and that her purse was on top of her bedroom dresser. Ms. Taylor stated she keeps the key for the gunlock under her bedroom mattress."
In their search warrants, Newport News police had also sought to search the boy’s backpack, which had black-white checkers and images of sharks. His initials were written on it in black ink.
Police also seized a notebook with starfish that belonged to Zwerner as well as a laptop and a manilla folder labeled with name of the boy who shot her, according to the search warrants.
Zwerner’s $40 million lawsuit accuses the school system of gross negligence and describes a series of warnings that school employees gave administrators in the hours before the shooting. Her lawsuit also claims that school officials dismissed concerns about the boy’s violent behavior over the course of months.
The school board has pushed back, arguing in court documents that the boy was being evaluated and treated for possible ADHD — which causes inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, while state and federal laws call for keeping such children in the classroom when possible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.