A great-grandfather is rebuilding the life of the boy who shot his teacher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Spiderman overlooks a toy-filled box, Lego blocks and a variety of stylish tennis shoes. The boy who made national headlines sleeps in his bedroom every night with a collection of cozy stuffed toys on his bed. Recently, his great-grandfather overheard a prayer.

“He was praying for his mom and he was hoping that she would come home safely soon,” said Calvin Taylor, a retired U.S. Army drill sergeant.

In the next room is where the child found the gun he brought to Richneck Elementary School Jan. 6, 2023 and shot his teacher, Abby Zwerner.

Complete Coverage: Richneck Elementary School Shooting

Regina Mobley: The weapon was in a purse on the top of this dresser? Were you aware that a weapon was in your home?

Calvin Taylor: No. I know how to use weapons, but there are no weapons in this home.

Across the hall, there’s a small safe that’s not for guns, but car keys. When the boy was five years old, he took his mother’s car keys, started her car, and crashed into two parked cars.

Social services got involved, but Taylor said several systems failed the boy long before Jan. 6, 2023.

“He was a victim before that date,” Taylor said. “Because contrary to popular belief, I know they said that my granddaughter neglected him and placed him in precarious situations. But there were instances where she tried to get help. I drove her to certain places. My other daughters drove her to places to acquire help, even the safety plan that they put in place after the car incident. There was no follow-up.”

After Deja Taylor was sentenced to two years in prison for neglect in mid-December, Taylor told 10 On Your Side’s Andy Fox he was angry with his granddaughter and all the social service, criminal justice, and education systems that failed her and her son.

Regina Mobley: We know what you were angry about more than a year later. What is it that you’re grateful for?

Calvin Taylor: Well, I’m grateful that I have an opportunity to spend time with him daily and that I have an opportunity to watch him grow up as a young man without a lot of baggage. I’m also grateful that he understands that it was an egregious mistake and that he’s not going to be defined by that mistake.

Deja Taylor is behind bars after being sentenced to two years on state charges and 21 months on federal gun charges. Her grandfather hopes she will get her GED while in custody.

As for the seven-year-old, Taylor says his great-grandson’s grades are good, as he attends a different, undisclosed school. He loves to cook, and even making brownies for his family. He hopes to learn to ride a horse one day.

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