The children of the Arizona weapons instructor who was killed last month when his 9-year-old student lost control of an Uzi submachine gun and accidentally shot him have penned a letter to the young girl.
“You're only 9-years-old,” wrote the four children of the slain instructor, 39-year-old Charles Vacca. "We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you, and we wish you peace.
“Our dad would want the same thing,” they wrote.
Vacca left behind sons Christopher Vacca, 11 and Tylor Vacca, 14, and daughters Elizabeth Vacca, 15 and Ashley Moser, 19, when he was shot Aug. 25 at the Last Stop range in White Hills, Arizona, about 60 miles south of Las Vegas.
Vacca was standing next to the 9-year-old girl when she squeezed the Uzi’s trigger. The recoil wrenched the Uzi upward, and Vacca was fatally shot once in the head.
"Our dad would want you to know that you should move forward with your life,” Vacca’s children wrote to the girl, who has not been identified.
“You should not let this define you,” they wrote. “Someday we hope we can meet you, hug you, and tell you that it's OK.”
The 9-year-old girl and her family were vacationing in Las Vegas when the shooting occurred.
James Goodnow, a member of Lamber Goodnow at Fennemore Craig, the Phoenix law firm hired by Vacca’s family after the shooting, said it was the children’s idea to write the letter. He provided a video of the children reading the letter to ABC News.
“I was touched when they told me they wanted to do this,” Goodnow said. “It's rare to see something so human in a legal situation like this.”
He added: "This is about extending out, reaching out to someone who was hurt by this, and saying it's OK."
Marc Lamber, also an attorney for the family, said the family wanted "the public to know who Charlie was, and the kind of person he was."
No charges have been filed in the case and responding officers noted that they believed it was an accidental shooting. The range allows anyone above the age of 8 to shoot automatic weapons if the instructor believes they are suitable.
The incident was filmed on an iPhone by the girl’s parents as they stood behind her and Vacca. The girl’s mother shared that video with police as soon as police spoke with her at the gun range’s restaurant.
The family of the 9-year-old girl issued a statement through their lawyer shortly after the police report of the incident was released earlier this month.
"They are devastated by this accident that turned what was supposed to be a unique and brief excursion from their summer vacation into a life changing tragedy," the statement read. "Words cannot express the family's sadness about the accidental shooting of Charles Vacca. They prayed day and night that he would survive his injury, and they continue to pray for his family during this terribly difficult time."
In their letter to the 9-year-old girl, Vacca's children also took an opportunity to describe their dad, who was a range master at the Last Stop range.
“Our dad wasn't just an instructor,” they wrote. “He was funny, strong, a protector, a hero, and our friend. He was a good man.”
“Like you, we are living through this tragic event that we cannot shut off,” the letter concluded. “It's with us all the time.”