Fatal Shooting Of Instructor By 9-Year-Old Was Gun Range’s First Accident

Charles Vacca, 39, died at a hospital after he was shot in the head in an accident at a firing range in White Hills, Ariz. He was showing a 9-year-old girl how to fire an Uzi submachine gun, authorities said.

Sergey Mironov / Thinkstock

2. Update: 1:30 p.m. PT Aug. 27


In the 14 years Sam Scarmardo has operated the outdoor gun range in White Hills, Ariz., he said they’ve never had any injuries.

“It sounds like a cliche, but we’ve never even (handed out) a Band-Aid,” he said.

Firing range instructor Charles Vacca, 39, died Sunday after he was accidentally shot by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi submachine gun, authorities said. Vacca had been at the range for about a year, Scarmardo said, following many years of serving in the military. He had a dry sense of humor, and he was a smart, well-trained instructor, Scarmardo said.

“(I) don’t know what happened,” he said.

Vacca, a Lake Havasu City resident, was accidentally shot in the head around 10 a.m. Sunday, according to the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.

He had been showing the girl how to fire an automatic Uzi when the accident happened, officials said. The girl pulled the trigger and the gun’s recoil sent it over her head. Vacca was standing next to her when he was shot.

He was airlifted to a hospital in Las Vegas, where he died around 9 p.m., officials said.

The girl’s parents were with her at the time of the shooting, officials said. According to the Bullets and Burgers website, which organizes tours from Las Vegas to the range, 8 is the minimum age for taking part. The location advertises machine guns, military-style bunkers, and specialty weapons.

Automatic weapons are a popular draw at local gun ranges, Scarmardo added, and until the accident, all allowed children to shoot them under supervision. A safety committee will be reviewing the accident at his range, he said.

In accordance with national guidelines, children must be 8 years old and with their parents, he said. An instructor is positioned in “close attendance” as they shoot.

“Everything is controlled,” he said.

3. The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office has released this video of Vacca and the 9-year-old girl at the shooting range moments before the fatal accident.

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