Gun instructor’s family shows sympathy for child who accidentally killed him
(CNN) — The grieving family of the Arizona instructor accidentally shot and killed by a girl learning to fire an Uzi expressed sympathy for the 9-year-old in a nationally televised interview Friday.
Charles Vacca was shot in the head Monday as he showed the New Jersey girl how to fire the Israeli-made 9mm submachine gun. As she pulled the trigger, the gun jumped out of her left hand toward Vacca, who was standing beside her. The shooting was captured on video.
“We just want to make sure they understand that we know it was a tragic accident and that it’s something that we’re all going to have to live with,” Vacca’s 19-year-old daughter, Ashley, told NBC’s “Today” show.
“My heart goes out to the little girl, and I feel sorry for her and for her family,” Vacca’s ex-wife, Anamarie, told the network.
The deadly incident occurred at a gun range in Arizona that caters to Las Vegas tourists, many of whom drive an hour from the gambling center to fire high-powered weapons.
Ashley said she planned to write a letter to the girl and her family.
“He was a good person, but we know they are as well,” she told the network.
Another daughter, Elizabeth, said: “I wanted to make sure they didn’t spend a big portion of their life surrounding it around this one incident.”
Chief Deputy Mohave County Attorney Jace Zack told CNN on Wednesday that prosecutors didn’t foresee criminal charges.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the girl was with her parents.
Authorities said the death was being handled as an industrial accident, with state occupational safety and health officials investigating. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also was notified.
An autopsy on Vacca was completed, but the cause and manner of death were pending, said Colleen Pitre, a representative of the medical examiner’s office. She would not say how many times Vacca was shot.
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.
Experts say an Uzi can fire five rounds one-third of a second.
Bullets and Burgers, the shooting range where the accident happened, is part of a tourism niche offering packages costing up to $1,000 to shoot different high-powered weapons. The range offers bachelorette parties, birthday celebrations and wedding events. It is one of at least a dozen gun ranges in the Las Vegas area catering to tourists from around the world.
The Bullets and Burgers website says children between the ages of 8 and 17 can shoot a weapon if accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Gun experts contacted by CNN said young children should be taught to shoot with single-shot firearms rather than submachine guns. They also said that safe learning is connected to the ability and experience of the instructor.
In the interview on “Today,” Ashley, the victim’s daughter, said: “We really do want the prayers to be going out to the family of the little girl. Our thoughts and our prayers are with them. We don’t want their life to revolve around this.”
CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.