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Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney's Office
Jessica D. Aber, United States Attorney
For Immediate Release
Monday, June 12, 2023

Owner of Firearm Used in Shooting of Newport News Teacher Pleads Guilty to Unlawful Firearm Possession

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Newport News woman pleaded guilty today to illegally obtaining and possessing a firearm and making a false statement on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) form to purchase the firearm.

“It is clear from this case that enforcement of our existing federal firearm laws is critical to ensuring public safety,” said Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Federal requirements for firearm ownership are not optional and exist to protect owners, their family members, and the communities where they live. Failing to abide by those requirements when purchasing or possessing a firearm can have far-reaching consequences.”

“The safety of our communities is one of my utmost concerns and our efforts will always reflect that. I want to be clear, anyone that is an unlawful user of or addicted to controlled substances such as marijuana are prohibited from possessing firearms and ammunition under federal law,” said ATF Washington Field Division Special Agent in Charge Craig B. Kailimai. “ATF will continue to collaborate with our local, state, and federal partners to ensure that people who violate this condition of firearm ownership are held accountable for their actions.”

According to court documents, on January 6, 2023, a six-year-old male child, John Doe, shot and severely injured a first grade Richneck Elementary School teacher with a Taurus, Model PT111, G2A, 9mm, semiautomatic handgun. Shortly thereafter, agents from the ATF conducted a trace on the firearm used in that incident, which revealed that the firearm was purchased by Deja Nicole Taylor, 25, on July 19, 2022. On January 19, federal agents executed a court-ordered search of Taylor’s home, during which agents discovered narcotics packaging, narcotics paraphernalia, marijuana, marijuana edible packaging, a box of ammunition, and a black firearm barrel lock. Agents also searched the home of Taylor’s mother, where Taylor was residing at the time, and found approximately 24.5 grams of marijuana, marijuana edible packaging, and marijuana paraphernalia. A search of Taylor’s phone revealed numerous text messages illustrating the pervasive scope of Taylor’s marijuana use. A lockbox was not found in either of the residences, nor was a trigger lock or key to a trigger lock ever found.

The investigation also uncovered a police report from the Williamsburg Police Department which stated that on Saturday April 3, 2021, Taylor was pulled over during a traffic stop in a vehicle with two other persons, including John Doe, who was four years old at the time. The Williamsburg Police officer conducting the stop detected an overwhelming odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and marijuana was in plain view inside the vehicle. Several marijuana edibles that looked like rice treats were found inside the vehicle directly next to John Doe. A backpack claimed by another person in the vehicle was found to contain numerous individually packaged marijuana rice treats, gummies containing THC, suspected crack cocaine, two large bags of marijuana, two packages of “BackpackBoyz” marijuana from California, suspected oxycodone pills, green plant material, a smoking device, and more edibles. Digital scales were also found inside the vehicle. Taylor’s purse was searched, and marijuana edibles and three unknown white pills were found. During that traffic stop, Taylor was advised of her Miranda rights, and she denied all knowledge of drugs inside the vehicle.

On July 19, 2022, Taylor purchased the Taurus handgun used in the shooting. She was required by law to complete the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Firearms Transaction Record, ATF Form 4473. She falsely stated on this form that she was not an unlawful user of marijuana or other controlled substances.

Taylor pleaded guilty to being an unlawful user of controlled substance in possession of a firearm and making a false statement during purchase of a firearm and is scheduled to be sentenced on October 18. She faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Craig B. Kailimai, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Washington Field Division, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa McKeel and Peter Osyf are prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:23-cr-45.

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