Family files suit over gun instructor's killing at Arizona range

August 22, 2016 9:02 PM EDT

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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - The family of an Arizona gun instructor fatally shot by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi submachine gun in 2014 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the range and its owner, an attorney confirmed on Monday.

The lawsuit brought by 39-year-old Charles Vacca Jr.'s survivors alleges Bullets and Burgers Corp acted negligently during the August 2014 accidental shooting at the outdoor facility in White Hills, Arizona, Vacca family attorney Thomas Slack said.

Filed by Vacca's wife, Stephanie Vacca, on behalf of his three children and his mother, the civil complaint claims the girl received "limited instruction" on firing the Uzi and never should have been given the weapon.

"The Uzi was an inappropriate and unsafe weapon to entrust to a 9-year-old girl ... thereby creating an unreasonably dangerous and unsafe environment for individuals in the area, including Charles J. Vacca, Jr.," according to the lawsuit filed last week in Mohave County Superior Court in Kingman, Arizona.

The suit is seeking unspecified damages.

Vacca was showing the girl how to fire the high-powered weapon at the popular tourist stop when it recoiled and she lost control of the Uzi, authorities said. He was struck by one round and later died.

The corporate entity Bullets and Burgers and its owner, Russell Mann, could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. Also listed in the lawsuit are several related companies and individuals.

The high-profile shooting touched off a nationwide debate on whether children should be allowed to handle such firearms.

The shooting was ruled an "industrial accident" by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and no criminal charges were filed.

A video released by the sheriff's office before the shooting showed Vacca giving her hands-on lessons as she aimed the Uzi at a target.

He is heard encouraging the girl and asking her to fire one shot before telling her: "All right, full auto." The weapon then unleashes multiple rounds as the video cuts off.

It was apparently moments later that Vacca was shot, authorities said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Vacca's children encouraged the girl, in a video, to find peace, put the ordeal behind her and move ahead with her life. They said they hoped to give her a hug one day.

(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Curtis Skinner and Bill Rigby)

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