The family a 9-year-old girl who accidentally shot her gun instructor when she lost control of a powerful Uzi submachine gun said today they are "devastated" that their "brief excursion" on their summer vacation turned into a "life changing tragedy."
The family issued a statement through their lawyer after Arizona police released a report of the Aug. 25 shooting accident in which the girl complained that the weapon was "too much" for her to handle and complained that the gun's recoil had hurt her shoulder.
The parents huddled around the girl, comforting her briefly, unaware that the shots had fatally struck instructor Charles Vacca, according to the police incident report.
Just hours after the report was released, the girl's family broke their silence through a New Jersey lawyer.
"They are devastated by this accident that turned what was supposed to be a unique and brief excursion from their summer vacation into a life changing tragedy," the statement read.
"Words cannot express the family's sadness about the accidental shooting of Charles Vacca. They prayed day and night that he would survive his injury, and they continue to pray for his family during this terribly difficult time," the statement read.
The police incident report gave details of the family's actions when they took a monster truck from Las Vegas to Arizona Last Stop, a recreational facility that houses a gun range called Bullets and Burgers.
They told responding officers how they huddled around their daughter as she gripped her shoulder, saying she was injured by the gun's powerful recoil after she fired the automatic weapon. The parents comforted their injured daughter, not realizing at that point that she had fatally shot her instructor, Charles Vacca.
The girl's mother told police that she saw her daughter drop the gun before turning towards her parents and telling them "the gun was too much for her and it hurt her shoulder."
The Mohave County Sheriff's Office has released their incident report, which includes descriptions of the shooting from both of the girl's parents.
"[The girl's mother] said no one knew Vacca was shot until the other instructor ran over," the report reads.
Vacca was identified in the report as a range master at the facility and he had been working with the New Jersey family while they were on vacation in Las Vegas.
One of Vacca's colleagues, a range instructor, told police that he was standing by when the shooting happened and he saw the girl, whose name was redacted from the police report because of her age, shoot the mini 9 mm Uzi.
The instructor "saw the girl start to shoot the weapon and due to the recoil, the weapon went straight up in the air and crossed the path where Charles had his head," the report states.
The instructor rushed to Vacca's side after he collapsed and began applying pressure to the head wound. The girl's father said that their first indication that something was wrong only came when the instructor ran over to Vacca.
The incident was filmed by the girl’s parents as they stood behind both she and Vacca and recorded her on their iPhone. The girl’s mother shared that video with police as soon as they spoke with her at the gun range’s restaurant.
No charges have been filed in the case and responding officers noted that they believed it was an accidental shooting. The range allows anyone above the age of 8 to shoot automatic weapons if the instructor believes they are suitable.