Child firing Uzi at shooting range kills instructor, police say

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Video released by sheriff's department

(CNN) — 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.”


  • whoyoukiddin

    Under no circumstance should a child be firing an uzi. The parents alone should have to face charges and become responsible parents. I am all for you owning guns and teaching your kids proper gun control, but this is the stupidest thing you can do. Remember they cannot handle the recoil from a gun firing and you never know what is going to happen. Stupidity all around even for the gun range for allowing a child of this age. God only knows what this has done to her psyche.

  • Monica Garrett

    I can remember that when my brother was around 8 or 9 and the men would be going hunting, he wanted to go but he was only able to carry and use a gun when he got about 13 years old. It seems that today we push our kids in so many ways of growing up sooner than they should. I feel so bad for the young lady and offer my deepest sympathy to the young man’s family.

  • tngilmer

    Poor instruction as well as poor practice of letting a child fire an automatic (or semi-automatic) firearm. I learned to shoot at age 9 at Boy Scout camp but it was a single shot bolt action .22 in a prone position. That is the proper way to start a child in the shooting sports.

  • Bobbyie Stokes

    You are setting these young kids up for failure!! Charge the parents she didn’t sign up for this on her own. You have got to stop this kind of behavior now, before someone else dies.

    • MissTee

      Parents are culpable, but the shooting range is more so. They are supposed to be well versed in gun safety. Thats what you pay them for. This is gross negligence. And now theyve screwed up that poor kids life.

  • ron

    I guess you just can’t get them started young enough these days. Hold the uzi with both hands honey.. both hands…. Come on lets work on holding that uzi firmly… we are going to make a killer out of you yet….lol

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