KINGMAN, Ariz. — An instructor who was shot by a 9-year-old girl who fired an Uzi at a northwestern Arizona shooting range died Monday night at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
The girl fired the weapon at the outdoor range that caters to heavy tourism traffic along U.S. Highway 93 between Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.
Highway signage and Internet advertising beckons visitors to stop in, fire a machine gun and enjoy a meal at the Bullets and Burgers enterprise at the Last Stop, about 25 miles south of Las Vegas.
The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said the accidental shooting occurred about 10 a.m. Spokeswoman Trish Carter said the girl, who was vacationing from New Jersey with her parents, was standing next to the instructor at the time.
Mohave County Sheriff Jim McCabe described a video taken of the accident as “ghastly.” His office released a short video of the girl taking her first few shots.
He said the girl safely and successfully fired the 9 mm weapon several times when it was set in the “single-shot” mode.
He said the weapon was put into the “fully-automatic” mode before the girl fired again with the instructor standing off to her left. The weapon recoiled and drifted left as the girl squeezed off an undetermined number of rounds as she maintained possession but lost control of the Uzi as it raised up above her head.
“The guy just dropped,” McCabe said of shooting instructor Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City, who suffered at least one gunshot to the head.
Jeff Frichette, director of training for The Range 702 in Las Vegas, said the incident in Arizona would never occur at his business. He credited this to how continuously shooting range’s safety officers are trained.
“Hypothetically” a 9-year-old would be able to shoot a fully-automatic weapon, but it’s a discretionary decision, he said.
That decision is based on physical and safety guidelines, he said.
Children need to understand the concept of safety before they are allowed to shoot, Frichette said.
Also, they must be “physically and mentally prepared” before they are allowed to shoot a fully automatic weapon. This includes a 4-foot height requirement, he said, adding that even then, they have to master other weapons such as a semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle before they’re allowed to shoot a fully automatic.
He added that a petite-looking child would likely only be allowed to shoot a semi-automatic rifle.
The Review-Journal contacted several other gun ranges in Las Vegas. One did not return a call and officials at another two declined to comment.
An autopsy on Vacca’s body will be performed by the Clark County coroner’s office.
McCabe said no citations will be issued and no charges will be filed as the shooting range is a licensed and legal operation.
The Bullets and Burgers website markets a unique shooting experience for customers.
“Our guests have the opportunity to fire a wide range of fully automatic machine guns and specialty weapons,” the website states. “At our range, you can shoot FULL auto on our machine guns.
“Let ‘em Rip!”
Las Vegas Review-Journal writer Ricardo Torres contributed to this report.