A little girl wearing a black-and-white Halloween costume was mistaken for a skunk and shot by a relative at a party, police in Pennsylvania said.
The 9-year-old was hit in the shoulder but was alert and talking as she was taken to a hospital in Pittsburgh after the incident Saturday night in New Sewickley Township, according to the Beaver County Times. New Sewickley is in western Pennsylvania near the Ohio border.
According to media reports, the girl, wearing a black hat with a white tassel, was hiding over the edge of a hill outside the house where the party was taking place when she was spotted by a relative about 8:30 p.m. Thinking the distant figure was a skunk, he fired a shotgun.
Police did not name the girl or identify the shooter or his relationship to her. Authorities told the Beaver County Times that it was not clear if charges would be filed against the shooter, who apparently had not been drinking alcohol.
News of the incident sparked a flurry of comments on the newspaper’s website touching on both gun rights and animal rights. “Really, just leave the animals alone. The thing is outside at night, where do you expect them to be? Was he worried that a skunk was going to break into his car? Peep into his windows?” one reader posted.
Several questioned the wisdom of pulling out a loaded gun at a gathering with children, while others questioned the wisdom of allowing a young girl to be out alone after dark. “Who was chaperoning this party? And who in their right mind shoots a skunk in the vicinity of their home? Everything about this story just stinks,” someone wrote.
Most just expressed shock that anyone could mistake a 9-year-old child for a skunk. “Just a bit confused here. Are 9-year-olds that small or are there really really big skunks in that area,” wrote another reader.