US mother charged after 6-year-old shoots teacher

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The mother of the six-year-old US elementary school student who shot and seriously wounded his teacher in January has been charged with felony child neglect, a prosecutor in the eastern state of Virginia announced Monday.

In addition to the felony indictment, Deja Taylor was also charged by a grand jury with “misdemeanor recklessly leaving a loaded firearm so as to endanger a child,” a statement by the Newport News prosecutor’s office said.

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Taylor’s lawyer James Ellenson told AFP that his client “will be turning herself in later this week.”

The port city’s lead prosecutor, Howard Gwynn, said his investigation into the widely-publicized shooting was ongoing, and that he would be requesting the empanelment of a “special grand jury” -- a panel of citizens with broad investigative powers -- to review the school’s security arrangements.

“If the Special Grand Jury determines that additional persons are criminally responsible under the law, it can return additional indictments,” said Gwynn, who announced last month that no charges would be brought against Taylor’s six-year-old son.

According to police, on January 6, the first-grader pulled a 9mm Taurus pistol, which had been legally purchased by his mother, from his bookbag and shot his teacher, Abigail Zwerner.

The 25-year-old was hospitalized for two weeks with injuries to her hand and chest.

The boy’s family said in a statement shortly after the incident that he “suffers from an acute disability,” and that the gun had been “secured” at home.

In early April, Zwerner filed a civil suit against school officials, whom she accused of not addressing the boy’s violent behavior and allegedly failing to respond to another student’s warning that he brought a gun to school. She is seeking $40 million in damages.

The United States, where nearly 400 million guns are in circulation, is regularly plagued by school shootings.

The latest tragedy occurred in late March, when three nine-year-old students and three adults were killed at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee.

While accidents involving young children accessing unsecured firearms in their homes are common in the United States, school shootings perpetrated by those under 10 years old are rare.

A database compiled by US researcher David Riedman has only registered about 15 such incidents since the 1970s.

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