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Virginia Teacher’s Shooter’s Mother Sentenced to 21 Months in Prison

A mother in Virginia has been sentenced to 21 months in prison after her six-year-old son shot his school teacher with a gun.

Deja Nicole Taylor, 26, pleaded guilty in June to possessing a firearm while using cannabis and making a false statement while purchasing a pistol.

Taylor also pleaded guilty to a charge of child neglect and is due to be sentenced in that case on 15 December.

Her son used a 9mm semiautomatic gun when he shot 25-year-old Abigail Zwerner, a first-grade teacher, last January at Richneck Elementary School in Newport News, Virginia.

According to police, the child had taken the handgun from home, placed it in his backpack and removed it while Ms Zwerner was teaching her class.

The child then fired a single shot through Ms Zwerner’s hand and into her chest.

Ms Zwerner was hailed a “hero” for evacuating students to safety after the shooting.

Steve Drew, Chief of Police in Newport News, said he believed that she had saved lives and that “this was not an accidental shooting”.

Ms Zwerner suffered injuries to her left hand and upper chest and was treated in hospital, with multiple operations across a period of almost two weeks.

She endured five hand surgeries and still has the bullet in her chest, according to The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

No one else was injured in the incident.

During the court hearing, defence lawyers pleaded for leniency and a maximum of six months in prison for Taylor, saying that she was “deeply saddened, extremely despondent and completely remorseful” over the shooting.

They also said that Taylor had trouble with addiction and mental health issues which “will only be exacerbated by imprisonment”.

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Prosecutors settled on a 21-month sentence which was in the middle of the federal sentencing guidelines of 18 to 24 months, according to a court filing,

The judge told the sentencing hearing that “this case cries out for imprisonment”, reported The Virginian-Pilot, given Taylor’s previous run-ins with the law, for gun- and drug-related incidents.

Ms Zwerner is suing for $40m (£32m) and her lawyers have said that school leaders were warned three times on the day of the shooting that the boy was armed.

“Teachers’ concerns with John Doe’s behavior was regularly brought to the attention of Richneck Elementary School administration, and the concerns were always dismissed,” the suit says, using the name John Doe to avoid naming the boy.

“Often when he was taken to the school office to address his behavior, he would return to the classroom shortly thereafter with some type of reward, such as a piece of candy.”

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