Updated: March 16, 2005 at 12:00 am
PUEBLO - A 9-year-old girl was fatally shot Monday as her younger brother struggled to get their father’s handgun away from her, authorities said Tuesday. Julia Arellano died from a single gunshot wound to the chest about 5:50 p.m. at her home on Kirk Avenue in eastern Pueblo. Investigators with the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office hadn’t determined whether the girl or the 6-year-old boy pulled the trigger. “Both of them had ahold of the gun,” sheriff’s spokesman Steve Bryant said. At least two adults — the children’s grandmother and father, Ruben Arellano — were home during the shooting. The grandmother comforted the boy, who was being cared for Tuesday by relatives. The father fell ill after the shooting and was hospitalized. He was in good condition Tuesday afternoon in the intensive care unit at St. Mary Corwin Medical Center. Julia found the .22-caliber gun on the floor underneath a dresser in a bedroom shared by her father and brother, investigators said. Julia’s brother told her to put down the gun and leave it alone, but she continued to play with it and loaded a magazine, Sheriff Dan Corsentino said. The boy grabbed the gun to try and take it away, and it fired during the struggle. “The tragedy of this, we can’t even explain the magnitude of it just from the perspective you have a 9-year-old little girl who had her whole life ahead of her, and the impact it’s going to have on the 6-year-old little boy is significant, as well as the rest of the family members,” Corsentino said. It hasn’t been determined whether any adults in the home will face charges such as child neglect or providing a gun to a juvenile, Corsentino said. Investigators found three other guns in the home, shared by several family members; the children’s mother doesn’t live there, investigators said. The other guns were in the uncle’s room. None of them had gun locks and were not secured in locked boxes or cabinets, investigators said. Corsentino encouraged people to secure guns out of reach of children. And if the guns are locked up, hide the key where children can’t find it. Parents should also talk to their children, “because guns are a natural curiosity to children,” Corsentino said. Tell them if they find one, he said, not to pick it up. “Too few children can reliably distinguish between a real gun and a toy gun,” Corsentino said.