Family of instructor killed at Arizona gun range does not blame girl

Fri Aug 29, 2014 3:15pm EDT

Shooting instructor Charles Vacca stands next to a 9-year-old girl at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona near the Nevada border, on August 25, 2014, in this still image taken from video courtesy of the Mohave County Sheriff's Office. REUTERS/Mohave County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters

Shooting instructor Charles Vacca stands next to a 9-year-old girl at the Last Stop shooting range in White Hills, Arizona near the Nevada border, on August 25, 2014, in this still image taken from video courtesy of the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

Credit: Reuters/Mohave County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters

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(Reuters) - The ex-wife and children of an Arizona gun range instructor shot and killed by a 9-year-old girl using an Uzi submachine gun do not blame the child and plan on reaching out to her family, according to a TV interview broadcast on Friday.

Charles Vacca was showing the girl how to fire the Uzi at the Arizona Last Stop gun range in remote White Hills on Monday when the recoil caused her to lose control of the high-powered weapon, according to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

Vacca, 39, was struck by at least one round from the Uzi and died, in an accident that has touched off debate over the wisdom of giving children access to high-powered firearms, even in a controlled setting such as a gun range.

"He was a good person, but we know they are as well," one of Vacca's daughters, Ashley, told NBC's "Today" show, referring to the girl's family. "We just want to make sure they understand that we know it was a tragic accident and it's something that we're all going to have to live with."

She said she planned to write a letter to the family, which was visiting Nevada from New Jersey at the time of the accident.

Another daughter, Elizabeth, agreed with that sentiment, saying: "I wanted to make sure they didn't spend their life surrounding this one incident."

The sheriff's office has said no criminal charges were pending in what it described as an "industrial accident," although the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health has opened its own investigation.

A video clip of the moments leading up to the shooting, released by the sheriff's office and circulating on the Internet, shows Vacca giving a girl in pink shorts and a braided ponytail hands-on instruction as she aims the Uzi at a black-and-white target shaped like the silhouette of a man.

Vacca is heard encouraging the girl and asking her to squeeze off one shot. Then he tells her, "All right, full auto," and the weapon unleashes multiple rounds as the video cuts off.

It was apparently moments later that Vacca was shot in the head when the girl lost control of the gun. Authorities have not said how many times Vacca was hit, but NBC News reported he was killed by a single bullet to the head.

"He was definitely a good person and he was a good dad. He loved his children very much and family was very important to him," Vacca's ex-wife, Anamarie, said in the "Today" interview.

The Last Stop is a tourist hub that includes a restaurant, bar, RV park and general store and is decorated with paintings of firearms, faux bullet holes and crosshairs and a mural depicting a gun-toting Sylvester Stallone in the film "Rambo."

The gun range closed briefly following the shooting, but had reopened as of Thursday. Its owner said the facility was "booked pretty solid" for the Labor Day weekend.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham)

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