Police release report, recordings involving accidental shooting

Family of girl who killed instructor says she is devastated

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PHOENIX — An at­tor­ney for the par­ents of a 9-year-old girl who ac­ci­den­tally killed an Ari­zona shoot­ing range in­struc­tor with an Uzi said Tues­day that the fam­ily is dev­as­tated by the trag­edy that oc­curred on a brief ex­cur­sion dur­ing a va­ca­tion.

The state­ment came as in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­leased po­lice re­ports and 911 re­cord­ings in­volv­ing the Aug. 25 shoot­ing of in­struc­tor Char­les Vacca at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Ariz., about 60 miles south of Las Vegas. The po­lice re­ports name the child’s par­ents as Alex Gen and Ali­son MacLach­lan and don’t list the cou­ple’s home­town.

New Jer­sey-based law­yer Kevin Walsh said the fam­ily “prayed day and night that [Mr. Vacca] would sur­vive his in­jury, and they con­tinue to pray for his fam­ily dur­ing this ter­ri­bly dif­fi­cult time.”

The po­lice re­ports say that im­me­di­ately af­ter the shoot­ing, the girl said she felt that the gun was too much for her and had hurt her shoul­der. Her fam­ily mem­bers were fo­cused on the girl be­cause they thought she was in­jured by the gun’s re­coil and didn’t im­me­di­ately re­al­ize that Mr. Vacca had been shot un­til one of his col­leagues ran over to him, the re­ports state.

The shoot­ing set off a pow­er­ful de­bate over young­sters and guns, with many peo­ple won­der­ing what sort of par­ents would let a child han­dle a sub­ma­chine gun. But nei­ther the re­ports nor Mr. Walsh’s state­ment ex­plain why the par­ents let the girl take the Uzi.

The fam­ily had taken a shut­tle from Las Vegas to the range. After ar­riv­ing, the girl, her par­ents, sis­ter and brother took a mon­ster truck ride be­fore head­ing to the shoot­ing range.

The girl’s father was the first one in the party to han­dle a weapon. After he fired shots, Mr. Vacca in­structed the girl on how to shoot the gun, showed her a shoot­ing stance and helped her to fire a few rounds, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports. He then stepped back and let her hold the Uzi by her­self. She fired the gun, and its re­coil wrenched the Uzi up­ward, kill­ing Mr. Vacca with a shot to the head, the re­ports state.

The girl dropped the Uzi, and Mr. Vacca fell to the ground. The girl ran to­ward her fam­ily, who hud­dled around her as she held her shoul­der. Another in­struc­tor rushed over to help Mr. Vacca. The other chil­dren were then taken away from the range.

The re­ports de­scribe the fam­ily as shaken by the ac­ci­dent. Re­cord­ings of 911 calls show that peo­ple at the shoot­ing range des­per­ately tried to keep the un­con­scious Mr. Vacca alive as they urged 911 dis­patch­ers to send a med­i­cal he­li­cop­ter. A dis­patcher urged call­ers to ap­ply pres­sure to Mr. Vacca’s wound. Mr. Vacca was flown to a Las Vegas hos­pi­tal, where he died hours later.

Pros­e­cu­tors are not fil­ing charges in the case. Ari­zona’s work­place safety agency is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death. County pros­e­cu­tors say the in­struc­tor was prob­a­bly the most crim­i­nally neg­li­gent per­son in­volved in the ac­ci­dent, for hav­ing al­lowed the child to hold the gun with­out enough train­ing. They also said the par­ents and child weren’t crim­i­nally cul­pa­ble.

The girl’s mother had video-recorded the ac­ci­dent on her phone. “All right, go ahead and give me one shot,” Mr. Vacca tells the girl in the video. He then cheers when she fires one round at the tar­get. “All right, full auto,” Mr. Vacca says. The video, which does not show the ac­tual in­ci­dent, ends with a se­ries of shots be­ing heard.

Sam Scar­mardo, the range’s op­er­a­tor, has said the par­ents had signed waiv­ers say­ing they un­der­stood the rules. He also said he never had a safety prob­lem be­fore at the range, and his pol­icy of al­low­ing chil­dren 8 and older to fire guns un­der adult su­per­vi­sion and an in­struc­tor’s watch­ful eye is stan­dard in­dus­try prac­tice, though he noted that his pol­i­cies are un­der re­view.

Mr. Vacca’s ex-wife and chil­dren have said they har­bor no ill feel­ings to­ward the girl and her fam­ily. In­stead, they feel sorry for the child and want to com­fort her.

United States - North America - Arizona


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