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Home > Topics > Safety

9-year-old accidentally kills firing range instructor with Uzi

She pulled the gun’s trigger and the recoil sent the weapon over her head, causing him to be shot

By Lauren Raab
Los Angeles Times

WHITE HILLS, Ariz. — An instructor at a shooting range in Arizona died Monday after a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot him in the head with an Uzi he was showing her how to use, the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office said.

Charles Vacca, 39, of Lake Havasu City was shot Monday morning, airlifted to a medical center in Las Vegas and pronounced dead shortly before 9 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.

Vacca was working at the Bullets and Burgers outdoor range in White Hills, about 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas, when the accident occurred. The girl and her parents were at the range while on vacation, a sheriff’s spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times.

He was standing next to the girl, instructing her how to use the Uzi, when she pulled the gun’s trigger and the recoil sent the weapon over her head, causing him to be shot, the sheriff’s office said.

“This is a rarity for something like this to happen,” the spokeswoman said.

A video released by the sheriff’s office Tuesday afternoon shows nearly half a minute of the shooting lesson.

Vacca, dressed in a dark shirt and camouflage pants, speaks to a slim girl with earmuffs, braided hair and bright pink shorts.

“We have to keep that held in,” he says, showing her the Uzi in his hands. “Otherwise the gun won’t fire, OK?”

He gives her the weapon and helps her adjust her arms and her stance — “just like that” — and, at his instruction, the girl shoots once at a target. Her shot lands slightly to its left.

“All right!” Vacca cheers.

As he gives further directions, a quick sequence of shots can be heard, and the gun begins tilting up. The video clip ends before he is struck.

In 2008, 8-year-old Christopher Bizilj died in a similar accident at a gun expo in Massachusetts. The boy was firing an Uzi at a pumpkin when the recoil caused him to lose control of the weapon, and he fatally shot himself in the head. 


McClatchy-Tribune News Service
©2014 the Los Angeles Times

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Chyril Sparks Chyril Sparks Wednesday, August 27, 2014 5:52:50 PM Why do parents feel that children under the age of 16 need to be using an Uzi? 16 cos even be too young. Now this young girl has to live with this for the rest of hey life and that is a burden no 9 year old needs to be dealing with.
Jt Lawson Jt Lawson Wednesday, August 27, 2014 6:03:16 PM Why do people feel the need to regulate weapons to an age? It's not the age that matters, It's the child. She was learning, accidents happen. Sad it happened in this magnitude. I know 60 year olds who I don't like to be in the same county with when they are hunting/shooting. Now there is another family that probably believes guns are horrible things and they need destroyed. Learn your weapon before you use it! Maybe only load two or three rounds in at a time, before you decide to blaze away. You'll know what said person can handle before they let loose
Ed Hillenbrand Ed Hillenbrand Wednesday, August 27, 2014 6:30:50 PM As a former NRA instructor I am loath to pass judgement on another, especially the recently deceased, but from the video he was on the wrong side of this child: I always was on the gun side of any student, that way if they pointed the muzzle in an unsafe direction I could quickly grab it without reaching across the student's body. Sort of like putting the defib on MY side of the patient.
Ron Hawkins Ron Hawkins Wednesday, August 27, 2014 6:48:01 PM my ? is why dose anyone think that a child can handle the recoil of a automatic weapon of any kind. i know adults that cant handle a fully automatic weapon. my next point is why is the instructor standing beside a shooter of any age. NUMBER ONE RULE OF ANY WEAPON BEING FIRED BY SOME ONE ELSE IS STAND BEHIND THE SHOOTER!
Paul Kocabay Paul Kocabay Wednesday, August 27, 2014 7:18:27 PM Accident? Really? Let's see what we have here. A 9 year old girl trying to handle a weapon that sprays 30 rounds per second, she fails and ends up killing the person next to her who is trying to instruct her. I realize it was not meant to happen but this is more like an incident than accident. Poor kid will have to live with this. No toys available in AZ?
Kevin Brown Kevin Brown Wednesday, August 27, 2014 9:01:14 PM Hey let's just put guns in everybody's hands. As a paramedic I see all the time the decisions people make can be life or death. In this case there is no reason for a 9 year old to shoot an uzi. I hate out happend a case of an adult not protecting a child and they both will pay the price.....SAD
Daniel Styers Daniel Styers Wednesday, August 27, 2014 9:10:17 PM There is a reason manufacturers make different calibers and styles of firearms. Not everyone is capable of firing a fully automatic weapon. Some aren't even capable of firing semi-automatic. I, myself, was instructing my young nephew of 8 years on how to fire one shot from an AR-10 style semi-automatic rifle which has a recoil damper in the stock to absorb the bulk of the recoil put out by the 7.63 x 51mm NATO round he was firing. However, he was unable to maintain a firm contact with his shoulder prior to pulling the trigger and it slipped down to his bicep. It gave him a nasty Charlie horse, but thankfully that was all. In retrospect, I see that even a gun with such mitigated recoil as that may be too much for a small child. So, I don't understand how it seemed a good idea to put a fully automatic, 9mm Uzi in the hands of a 9 year old. Perhaps it wouldn't have been so bad had the weapon been set for the round bursts. I guess hindsight is 20/20. I feel for the family of the firearms instructor, but even more so for the poor little girl who will forever have that image in her head of shooting a man and killing him, and then dealing with all the guilt and emotions that come with that. My prayers to all involved. :-( I hope this doesn't become a setback for people getting out and continuing to learn the sport of shooting and firearms safety.
Daniel Styers Daniel Styers Wednesday, August 27, 2014 9:11:36 PM Typo on the AR-10 round. It's a 7.62x51mm.
Robert J Martin Robert J Martin Thursday, August 28, 2014 12:06:13 AM All I have to say is why on earth would you ever hand a loaded automatic weapon like and Uzi to a child and expect her/him to handle it appropriately?! Unless you've been working with the kid for a few months or years even, you don't EVER hand them a loaded weapon without maintaining some kind of positive control. A family ruined and a child scared for life. WTF PEOPLE?!
Scott Best Scott Best Thursday, August 28, 2014 5:56:41 AM Allowing a nine-year old child to fire an UZI was poor judgment at best. I'm a gun rights advocate and CCP holder, but if you want to teach children about firearms, think BBs and Pellets and .22cal single shot and not fully automatic submachine guns. This was sheer stupidity and bad judgment on the part of the parent and the instructor. This girl will be traumatized for life. An 8-year old was killed a few years ago in a similar incident. His father, a doctor no less, disregarded the danger. Call it what it is.
Scott Best Scott Best Thursday, August 28, 2014 6:05:14 AM First age does matter. But considering if it didn't,how about starting with a .22 single shot rifle, after covering basics with BB or pellet rifles. Common sense should rule. Automatic weapons are not for the amusement f children.
Chris Craig Chris Craig Thursday, August 28, 2014 4:32:20 PM I'm not sure why he thought that would be a good idea? I took my 12 and 13 year old nieces shooting but I used a .22 cal Buckmark and had them practice with dummy rounds before we even went to the range. At the range I had them load one round and fire, then two rounds, and so forth until they and I felt comfortable with it. I was behind them ready to correct any dangerous behavior. To allow a 9 year old to fire an automatic Uzi was irresponsible. He put everyone's life in danger.
Mark Miller Mark Miller Thursday, August 28, 2014 6:06:18 PM The instructor paid for the stupid mistake with his life. The kid will have to live with that for the rest of her life.
Thursday, August 28, 2014 8:15:50 PM As state commander of Militia forces in Calif I have to weigh in on this. This is very tragic i dont understand why a 9 year old has to train with an Uzi that is too powerful weapon to handle for even some adults
Jack Millman Jack Millman Friday, August 29, 2014 4:15:14 AM There is no cure for stupid. Not the child the instructor"
Gordon Gamache Gordon Gamache Friday, August 29, 2014 3:50:38 PM this does not even rate stupid

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