An 8-year-old girl in New Sewickley Township, Pa., dressed for Halloween in a black costume and a black hat with a white feather was shot over the weekend by her cousin who thought she was a skunk.
In a statement Monday, New Sewickley Township Chief of Police Ronald Leindecker said the girl was at a Halloween bonfire at a family member's home around 10 p.m. The girl, whose name has not been released, was said to have been playing on a hillside when the home's owner, Janet Grant, mistook her for the noxious pest.
Police said Grant then asked her son, Thomas Grant, who police said was the victim's cousin, to shoot the pest.
According to the statement, Grant then retrieved a shotgun from the home. While his mother shined a flashlight at what they believed was a skunk, Thomas fired the gun, striking the still unidentified girl in the shoulder and abdomen.
The girl was flown by helicopter about 30 miles to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital, where she underwent surgery and where, according to police, she remains in critical condition.
"He is extremely devastated by the actions that took place," Leindecker told ABC's Pittsburgh affiliate WTAE. "It's a tragic incident that occurred. It's not something he dreamed would ever happen."
Leindecker said Thomas Grant was not under the influence of alcohol at the time of the shooting. Although authorities have not yet filed charges, the police chief did meet with the Beaver County district attorney, and plans to work with the Pennsylvania Game Commission about possible charges related to animal gaming laws.
Leindecker said charges could still be filed pending an investigation.