target practice

"Don't let (the man) get in trouble, it was an accident." This was the third thing that a mom said after discovering her 4-year-old daughter had been shot in the head during a terrible accident last October. The first two things she said were: "This can't be real" and then, "why?," which are a lot more understandable in such a sudden, heart-shattering event like this, which came so out of the blue. Just a normal day visiting a friend, helping to paint a headboard in the yard. Her daughter and another girl playing at a neighbor's.

But it's because of the mom's (odd? compassionate? humane?) plea for the 24-year-old man living at the house -- one she repeated to police again during the investigation -- that "no charges" are being filed against him in the death of little Zoie Dougan.

Who can say what any of us would think if we were in that mom's shoes at the time -- but thinking of the welfare of the shooter, no matter how accidental she believed his actions at the time -- would not typically be one of the first 50 things going through my mind in a time like this. I'd be convulsing with grief, praying to God with every fiber of my being, over my little girl lying there bleeding. It would take me a long time to be able to think clearly enough to come to a conclusion like that. No matter how well I knew them, whether they were family or not.

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The man admitted to being irresponsible in his choice of target shooting locations -- a pile of garbage marked to be burned. He was aiming at a bottle through his rifle sight preparing to shoot at a bottle, something you do before you prepare to hunt to make sure everything is working the way it should, and pulled the trigger -- never seeing little Zoie running by on her way to a swing set.

The man was visibly distraught and upset after the incident, say the cops. It sounds like it really was an awful, unintentional tragedy. But still one involving bad judgment and one that could have been avoided. Some things can be forgiven without cost, but what about when a choice ends the life of a child? Perhaps in this case, the guilt and self-torment of knowing he's responsible really is punishment enough.

Should the family's wishes have sway with police in tragedies involving children?


Image via ButterflySha/Flickr