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September 20, 2014

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Victim’s family feels sorry for girl who shot him

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John Locher / AP

People are seen at the Last Stop outdoor shooting range Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, in White Hills, Ariz. Gun range instructor Charles Vacca was accidentally killed Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, at the range by a 9-year-old with an Uzi submachine gun.

SAN DIEGO — The accidental killing of a firing range instructor by a 9-year-old girl learning to shoot an Uzi unleashed a storm of criticism and anger, with much of it aimed at her parents.

But the ex-wife and children of instructor Charles Vacca say they harbor no ill feelings toward the girl and her family. Instead, they feel sorry for the child and want to write her a letter to comfort her.

"That's truly how we feel," Vacca's ex-wife, Anamarie, told The Associated Press by phone.

Charles Vacca was standing next to the girl when she squeezed the trigger at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas.

The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and the 39-year-old Vacca was fatally shot once in the head.

Anamarie Vacca said she has not spoken to the girl or her parents since the accident Monday, but her children want to write the letter, "knowing their family has to grieve through the same process."

The identities of the girl and her family have not been released.

"I know we're going to let her know to not revolve her life around it," Anamarie Vacca said about the accident.

The family first talked about their feelings toward the girl on NBC's "Today" show.

Groups seeking to reduce gun violence have said it was reckless to let the girl handle such a powerful weapon and are calling for tighter regulations regarding children and guns.

Sam Scarmardo, who operates the outdoor shooting range in the desert, has said the parents had signed waivers saying they understood the rules and were standing nearby, video-recording their daughter, when the accident happened.

Investigators released 27 seconds of the footage showing the girl from behind as she fires at a black-silhouette target. The footage, which does not show the instructor actually being shot, helped feed the furor on social media and beyond.

Prosecutors say they do not plan to file charges.

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