A 4-year-old Branson girl was accidentally shot and killed Monday in the Rogersville area by a man target practicing, according to a Christian County official.
Christian County Coroner Brad Cole said that Zoie Dougan had been playing in the front yard of a house on U Highway with other children while a man was shooting at targets with a .22-caliber rifle behind the house.
“They went behind the house and she ended up in the line of fire,” Cole said.
The shooting happened at about 3 p.m., Cole said.
He said Doughan was air-lifted to a Springfield hospital where she was pronounced dead.
A southwest Missouri prosecutor will not file charges against a man who shot a 4-year-old girl to death while he was target shooting.
Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite said she decided not to file charges against the man, whose name has not been released, after reviewing statements in sheriff’s department documents, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
The documents indicate the man did not know that the child, Zoie Dougan, of Branson, was in front of him when he fired a rifle Oct. 28 at a home near Rogersville. Records show the man was not drinking, was distraught after the shooting, and said he had not seen the child when he fired the shot, according to the documents.
Zoie’s mother, who was present at the scene, also told investigators she believed the shooting was an accident and that the man should not be punished.
The deputies’ reports, the first public records released in the shooting, indicate Zoie and her mother, Alyssa Dougan, were visiting friends at the house and were outside when a man who lived there decided to shoot at items in a burn pile in order to prepare a rifle for squirrel hunting. He aimed at a bottle about 70 feet away, keeping one eye closed while he focused, according to the reports.
The women told investigators that Zoie and another girl were running toward a swing set in the yard about the same time. The area in the yard where Zoie was shot was between the shed and the swing set.
The man said he fired one shot, then heard one of the women yell, “What was that?” He turned around and saw both women running to the area where he had just fired, the reports say. He then saw Zoie lying on the ground.
“(The man) said he never saw Zoie enter his sight picture as he looked through the scope,” the report says.
Alyssa Dougan told investigators she saw her daughter in the grass and ran over when the girl didn’t respond to her calls.
When deputies arrived, they reported Alyssa Dougan was crying and saying, “This can’t be real” and “Why?”
The reports say she also told deputies, “Don’t let (the man) get in trouble, it was an accident.”
Emergency personnel reported Zoie was unconscious and struggling to breathe when they arrived. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“(The man) was crying and emotionally upset as he described the chain of events, claiming it was a complete accident,” the report said.
He also told officers he knew shooting at that location “wasn’t good judgment. I understand that.”
Mike Brooks with the Missouri Department of Conservation says gun owners can sometimes get complacent. He says even people who handle guns on a regular basis can pick up bad habits.
“You really have to know what your target is and what lies beyond your target. A lot of responsibility comes into play when anytime you handle a firearm for any reason,” he said.
Police say a 25-year old man was target shooting in his backyard on Monday when the four year old girl ran in front of him.
“We will treat this as a crime because there’s a potential possibility of negligent manslaughter, that’s not for me to decide but we will work it as the worst case scenario,” said Christian County Sheriff Joey Kyle.
The girl was shot in the head and died on the way to the hospital.
“It’s real easy to lose track of where everyone is and before you know it you have a tragedy on your hands,” said Brooks.