LEXINGTON COUNTY SC — Pricilla Salley’s worst nightmare brutally came true when her daughter was killed by a shot from a rifle that authorities say was fired accidentally by another youngster during a weekend birthday party.
“I don’t even let my kids play with toy guns,” Salley said Tuesday. “Somebody has got to answer for this – I want justice.”
Lexington County deputies are investigating the fatal shooting of 7-year-old Juliet Lynch around sunset Saturday in the front yard of a home in the 200 block of Wild Bird Lane near Gaston.
The rifle is a single-shot FEG, manufactured in Hungary, deputies said. Authorities are working to determine if it is legally owned.
Here is what deputies say happened:
Lynch was slain when a 5-year-old boy accidentally discharged a rifle stored in the trunk of a vehicle parked at a neighbor’s home. Fragments from the bullet hit Lynch in her chest as she played nearby.
• Another 5-year-old boy playing with the slain girl is recovering from wounds in his right forearm.
• The shooting occurred when the mother of the boy who fired the rifle unlocked a car’s trunk so he could retrieve a toy pistol. Instead, he unintentionally grabbed the rifle, and it fired through the right rear of the car.
• The boy’s mother said she didn’t know the loaded rifle was there. The weapon and car belonged to a boyfriend of the mother. He was unaware she was going to the car, and no one else knew about the rifle.
• The man’s possession of the weapon is permissible under state standards. U.S. Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco agents have been asked to review his eligibility to own a weapon under federal standards.
State health records show that four youngsters were killed in accidental shootings in Lexington, Richland and Kershaw counties in the five years from 2008 to 2012, the last year for which totals are available.
Salley is content to let deputies investigate the incident but wonders why anyone would bring a loaded weapon to a celebration to which youngsters were invited.
“I just want to know why a gun was brought to a birthday party and what the person who did it was thinking,” she said. “Why is a gun like that in somebody’s trunk?”
For Salley, it’s cruel irony that her youngest daughter, who was a twin, died from a shooting when for years she discouraged her children from violent play.
“Nobody should be allowed to carry guns,” she said. “Take all the guns off the street and leave them to police and we’d be all right.”
Her outspoken stand against guns is echoed by some neighbors.
“This hurts so much,” said Clifton Francis, whose daughter often played with Juliet. “When it hits you, you really understand what it means. We need to try to keep everybody from going through this.”
Members of the family at whose home the shooting occurred tried to apologize during a memorial there Sunday, but “I was too broke up” to listen, Salley said.
A woman at the home declined comment beyond expressing sorrow that “this is a terrible thing that happened.”
Salley, 31, said her family was among those who dropped in at the neighborhood celebration a few blocks from her home.
She was in the family van, talking on the telephone to her brother, when she thought a firecracker had exploded.
Her husband, Corey, quickly appeared, holding Juliet and moaning their daughter’s name. The family then rushed her to medical care, she said.
Her husband is “very torn up” and can’t talk about the shooting, she said.
Juliet was the couple’s youngest of 10 children, her mother said.
Her daughter was a first-grade student at Congaree-Wood Early Childhood Center in nearby Pine Ridge. She liked to sing, dance and ride her bicycle, her mother said.
The family is seeking donations to help pay for Juliet’s funeral. Contributions can be made at any Wells Fargo bank branch.
Her funeral will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Turner Memorial AME Church in West Columbia, with burial at nearby Gibson Cemetery.
Visitation will be at Jones Funeral Home in West Columbia from 1-8 p.m. Friday.
By the numbers
S.C. deaths of those 17 and younger from accidental shootings, 2008 to 2012, the latest year for which information is available:
Lexington County: 2
Richland County: 2
Kershaw County: 0
Source: South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control