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Girl's family "devastated" by Uzi instructor's death

PHOENIX -- The family of a 9-year-old girl who accidentally killed a shooting range instructor with an Uzi in northern Arizona said Tuesday they're "devastated" by the incident that turned a summer vacation into a "life-changing tragedy."

The statement released by New Jersey-based lawyer Kevin Walsh was the first public from the family since the Aug. 25 accident that killed Charles Vacca. Vacca, 39, was showing the girl how to fire an Uzi when the recoil sent the gun into the air. A bullet struck Vacca in the head. He died hours later.

The parents were identified in a police report released Tuesday as Alex Gen and Alison MacLachlan. Their hometown was not released.

Was shooting instructor killed by 9-year-old ... 01:58

"Words cannot express the family's sadness about the accidental shooting of Charles Vacca. They prayed day and night that he would survive his injury, and they continue to pray for his family during this terribly difficult time. The family also asks for the public's prayers for their own family," the statement said.

"They are devastated by this accident that turned what was supposed to be a unique and brief excursion from their summer vacation into a life-changing tragedy. They are dealing with this privately as a family," the family statement said.

The statement came as investigators released reports and 911 recordings from the shooting at the Last Stop range in Arizona, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas.

The girl said immediately after the shooting that she felt the gun was too much for her and had hurt her shoulder, according to the police reports.

Her family members were focused on the girl because they thought she was injured by the gun's recoil and didn't immediately realize Vacca had been shot until one of his colleagues ran over.

The family had taken a shuttle on Aug. 25 from Las Vegas about 60 miles south to the Last Stop range. Once arriving there, the girl, her parents, sister and brother took a monster truck ride before heading out to the shooting range.

The report did not say why the family had gone to the range or why they let the girl handle the Uzi.

The girl's father was the first one in the party to handle a weapon. After the father fired shots, Vacca showed the girl how to shoot the gun, showed her a shooting stance and helped her fire off a few rounds.

Then, he stepped back and let her hold the Uzi by herself. She fired the gun, and its recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, killing Vacca with a shot to the head, according to the report.

The girl dropped the Uzi, and Vacca fell to the ground.

The girl ran toward her family, who huddled around her as she held her shoulder. Another instructor rushed over to help to Vacca. The other children were then taken away from the range, according to the report.

The report describes the family as shaken by the accident.

Prosecutors are not filing charges in the case.

County prosecutors say the instructor was probably the most criminally negligent person involved in the accident for having allowed the child to hold the gun without enough training. They also said the parents and child weren't criminally culpable.

On Friday, Vacca's family said they feel sorry for the girl.

His daughter, 19-year-old Ashley, told NBC's "Today" show that the family knows it was a "tragic accident" and something she'll have to live with.

She said she planned to write a letter to the girl's family. "Our thoughts and our prayers are with them. We don't want their life to revolve around this," she said.

In their statement, the girl's family honored Vacca, "a military veteran who they were told served honorably overseas to defend America."

The tragedy has ignited a discussion about whether children should be allowed to fire powerful automatic weapons.

The girl's parents asked that their case not be used in the debate.

"Although certain people will seek to use this tragedy for their own partisan purposes and agenda, the family asks all compassionate Americans to pray for their children and the entire Vacca family," their statement said. "Please respect both families' privacy as they seek to deal with this tragic accident."

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