A 9-year-old girl learning to fire a submachine gun accidentally killed her instructor at a shooting range when the weapon recoiled over her shoulder, according to Arizona authorities.
The instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca, died at a hospital late Monday night after he was shot in the head.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the girl was with her parents. The website of Bullets and Burgers, the shooting range where the accident happened, says children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot a weapon if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Police identified the weapon as an Uzi, an Israeli-made submachine gun.
It wasn’t the first fatal accident involving a child and an Uzi. In 2008, an 8-year-old boy in Massachusetts accidentally shot himself with a micro Uzi during a gun show.
In Arizona, cell phone video released by authorities Tuesday shows the moments before the fatal shots were fired, CNN affiliate KLAS reported.
In the video, Vacca and the girl are at an outdoor range. The wind blows a target in the distance. Vacca shows the child how to hold the gun and then helps her establish her grip and her stance. She fires one round and dirt flies above the target. Vacca adjusts the Uzi, places his right hand on her back and his left under her right arm.
She fires several rounds in rapid succession and the gun kicks to the left as she loses control. The video ends before the fatal head shot. In releasing the video, authorities did not identify who made it.
KLAS reported the girl was a tourist from the Northeast.
Sam Scarmardo, who operates Bullets and Burgers, told KLAS they “really don’t know what happened.”
“Our guys are trained to basically hover over people when they’re shooting,” he said. “If they’re shooting right-handed, we have our right-hand behind them ready to push the weapon out of the way. And if they’re left-handed, the same thing.”
Vacca was married, well-liked and a veteran, KLAS said.
The range, which is about an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, says on its Facebook page: “We separate ourselves from all other Las Vegas ranges with our unique ‘Desert Storm’ atmosphere and military style bunkers.”
In the Massachusetts incident, former Pelham Police Chief Edward Fleury was found not guilty in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter in the 2008 death of 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj, who was firing the micro Uzi when he accidentally shot himself in the head at a gun show Fleury helped organize. The boy died instantly.
Fleury also was acquitted of three counts of furnishing a machine gun to a minor.
Christopher’s father, Charles Bizilj, was present at the time of the shooting and videotaped the entire incident. Parts of that tape were shown to the jury, which also heard emotional testimony from the father.
“I ran over to him. His eyes were open and I saw no reason for him to be on the ground,” Bizilj told members of the Hampden County jury. “And I tried to talk to him and he didn’t respond. I put my hand behind his head to try to pick him up and there was a large portion of his cranium missing. And I put my hand against the back of his head.”