Arizona investigating fatal gun range shooting by 9-year-old girl

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 28, 2014 4:43 PM

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) - Arizona occupational health and safety officials said on Thursday they were investigating a gun range accident in which a 9-year-old girl fatally shot her instructor with an Uzi, and an Arizona newspaper reported the range had closed indefinitely.

Charles Vacca, an instructor at Arizona Last Stop in White Hills, near the Nevada border, was shot in the head on Monday morning when the girl lost control of the submachine gun, according to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

Vacca, 39, was airlifted to a Las Vegas hospital where he pronounced dead Monday evening.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, Rachel Brockway, confirmed that the agency was investigating the shooting, but said state law prevented her from disclosing any details.

The Arizona Republic, citing a worker who declined to give his name, reported that the range had been closed and that it was not yet clear when it would reopen.

"It's a tragic accident," the employee told the paper. "We're all still mourning our friend. ... We felt like everyone here was family."

Owners of the gun range could not be reached for comment by Reuters on Thursday.

Vacca had been standing next to the girl instructing her on how to fire the weapon when the recoil forced her aim over her head, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office said. It did not say how many times Vacca was shot or what model of Uzi the girl was firing.

Some Uzi models are capable of firing up to 1,700 rounds per minute, or almost 30 rounds per second, according to the manufacturer’s website.

The girl, whom police did not identify, was at the outdoor range with her parents.

Arizona Last Stop, which includes a restaurant, bar and RV park, has a “Burgers and Bullets” program that offers customers lunch with a trip to the range, where they can choose from among more than 20 automatic weapons to shoot, according to its website.

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The website on Thursday still showed the packages available for the shooting range, which is described as having "unique 'Desert Storm' atmosphere," and says each visiting group gets a "certified ex-military firearms instructor." It lists the minimum age for the range as 8.

Lance Krig, who owns property next to the gun range, told the Republic that he sued its owners in 2012, claiming noise violations, and had safety concerns at the time.

"This is exactly what I said was going to happen," Krig told the paper.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)