ROCHESTER, Pennsylvania. (AP) — A woman hosting a Halloween party shined a light for her son to help him shoot what they thought was a skunk but was really his 8-year-old cousin in a black-and-white costume, police said.
The girl, who was hit in the shoulder, arm, back and neck, was hospitalised Monday in critical condition following Saturday night's shooting in Rochester, a rural area about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh where firearms and hunting are common.
The woman hosting the party, Janet Grant, told police officers someone told her at around 8:30 pm there was a skunk nearby and she asked her son to shoot it, New Sewickley Township police Chief Ronald Leindecker said Monday, according to the Beaver County Times.
The son, 24-year-old Thomas Grant, grabbed a shotgun while his mother pointed the beam of a flashlight at a nearby hillside, Leindecker said. Grant spotted what he thought was a skunk under a tree and fired, the chief said, but then he heard a scream from his cousin.
The girl was wearing a black body costume and a black hat with a white tassel.
People who live in the quiet country neighbourhood said neither Grant nor his family had ever caused problems.
"Nobody can really understand it," said Dan Reese, who lives next door to the house where Grant fired the shotgun.
But Reese said Grant shouldn't have been shooting at that time of night or near other houses.
"He knows better," Reese told The Associated Press.
The Grant house sits of the side of a small hill, and at least two other houses appear to be within 100 yards. That could be important because it is a violation of state hunting regulations to shoot a firearm within a 150-yard safety zone around another occupied residence.
State officials also say that while it is legal to hunt skunks and to hunt them at night, as it requires what is known as a furtaker license. It's unknown if Grant had one.
Leindecker said a "thorough investigation" is under way and no charges had been filed. No one answered the door of the Grant house on Monday afternoon.
Investigators haven't released the identity of the girl, who was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. A spokeswoman there declined to comment on her condition.
Reese said the girl may have been lucky because local nurses apparently were with her when she was shot.