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12-year-old girl dies after she was accidentally shot in head during target practice

A 12-year-old girl has died after she was accidentally shot in head while target shooting over the weekend in rural Washington state, authorities said.

Police said in a statement that the girl, Sydney Darnell, was removed from life support Monday at a Seattle hospital - only a day after a rifle that she was firing unexpectedly went off and she was struck in the head.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Sydney's family and friends as they face the sorrow and pain of this tragedy," Kittitas County Undersheriff Clayton Myers said in a statement about the incident.

Myers urged social media users to "show compassion before deciding how they can use it to communicate their own personal belief and/or agenda."

"Tragic injury or loss of life, especially when it involves children, frustrates us and reaches all of our emotions," the undersheriff added. "Just because Social media allows us the opportunity to criticize, condemn and hate, doesn't mean we have to. It has been my experience that Righteous Indignation does little more than feed the ego of the sender, so before you decide to launch your attack, consider some of the beneficial alternatives; sympathy, mercy and compassion."

It's still unclear whether charges have been filed in the case. The Kittitas County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

Authorities responded early Sunday afternoon to the scene on Sandy Ridge Road near Cle Elum, a popular camping destination not too far from Seattle.

The girl's mother, Kiara Darnell, from Arlington, Wash., had taken Sydney with her to visit her boyfriend more than 100 miles away in Cle Elum, authorities said. The mother's boyfriend, 52-year-old Sean Frick, and Sydney had been shooting targets with a lever-action .22-caliber rifle when Sydney put down the firearm and went to check the target to see how she had done, according to the statement from the sheriff's office.

"Mr. Frick noticed she had left the rifle loaded with the hammer cocked back so he attempted to make the rifle safe," authorities said in the statement. "The gun went off when he attempted to lower the hammer.

"Sydney . . . had walked off the deck and was right in the direct path of the round."

Sydney's mother called 911 and Frick performed CPR on the child until help arrived, authorities said. The child was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she was put on life support.

The girl was pronounced dead about 9:30 a.m. Monday, the authorities said.

Such tragedies are not rare enough.

As The Washington Post's Christopher Ingraham reported, since 2013, "the number of children killed by guns in the United States has increased by 30 percent, to 1,637 fatalities in 2016 - more than four deaths per day." He said that makes firearm-related injuries the third-leading cause of death in the United States among children ages 1 to 17, according to a 2017 study published in Pediatrics.

In some other cases, children have been the ones to inadvertently fire the fatal shot.

In 2014, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot and killed her shooting instructor with an Uzi machine pistol during a practice session in Arizona. She later said it was "too much" for her to handle, according to a police report.

That incident prompted conversations about whether children should be given access to such powerful firearms. At the time, many gun-control advocates said no; many gun-rights advocates said yes, but in the right settings and when the children are properly prepared for it.

Authorities are still investigating the incident in Washington state and the King County Medical Examiner's Office said it had no information to release at this time.

Author information: Lindsey Bever is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post, covering national news with an emphasis on health. She was previously a reporter at the Dallas Morning News.