A 2-year-old Kentucky girl was accidentally killed by her 5-year-old brother who fired a rifle he had been given as a gift, officials said Wednesday.
Cumberland County Coroner Gary L. White said an autopsy of Caroline Starks showed the toddler had died from a single shot from the .22-caliber rifle. The death has been ruled accidental and no charges will be filed, he said in a telephone interview with the Los Angeles Times.
“Most everybody in town is pretty devastated by this,” White said. “Nobody wants to take anyone’s guns away, but you’ve got to keep them out of harm’s way for the kids. It’s a safety issue.”
The girl, Caroline Starks, was in her Burkesville, Ky., home when her brother fired the rifle he had been given as a birthday present about 1 p.m. Tuesday. The mother had just stepped outside the house for a moment, White said. The child was pronounced dead at Cumberland County Hospital.
The rifle used in the accident is a Crickett designed for children and sold under the slogan “My First Rifle,” according to the company's website. It is a smaller weapon designed for children and comes with a shoulder stock in child-like colors including pink and swirls.
“The little Crickett rifle is a single-shot rifle and it has a child safety,” White said. “This was just a tragic accident.”
The child safety lock was in place and operational, White said. Officials believe a shell had been left in the weapon from the last use and no one realized it.
“In my fifteen years as coroner, this is the first such case,” he said. “It is very, very rare.”
It is legal in Kentucky to give a child a rifle as a gift, White said. Nor is it unusual for children to have rifles, often passed down from their parents, he said.
Earlier this month, Brandon Holt, 6, was accidentally shot to death by a 4-year-old playmate in New Jersey.