A young child was killed Sunday when another child picked up a rifle and fired while the two were playing in a Mountain Village home, Alaska State Troopers said.
Alaska State Troopers were notified by tribal and village police around 1:45 a.m. Sunday that a child had died in the Western Alaska village, they said in an online report. Troopers said they responded to investigate and found that “two children were playing with nerf guns when one of them picked up a rifle and shot the other one.”
Health aides responded after the shooting and declared the child dead, troopers said.
The other child got the rifle from the home where the shooting occurred, and an adult was inside the home at the time, said troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel. He did not answer a question about who the rifle belonged to.
Details about the children involved, including their ages, are not being released publicly “due to the size of the community that this tragic event occurred and our requirement to protect juvenile information,” McDaniel said.
Mountain Village is home to roughly 600 people and is on the north bank of the Yukon River about 20 miles west of St. Mary’s.
No criminal charges had been filed by Monday, McDaniel said. The investigation is ongoing. The State Medical Examiner’s Office requested that the child’s remains be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy, according to troopers.
Unintentional firearm deaths involving children are relatively unusual in Alaska, an epidemiologist with the state tracking injury data has said. In 2018, data from the prior 15 years showed that a majority of those who died were 12 or younger, and in three-quarters of those accidental shootings, someone other than the victim had fired the weapon. Nearly half occurred while children were playing with the gun.
In Alaska, it’s also uncommon for a gun owner to be prosecuted when a child gets hold of the weapon and someone dies or is hurt.