A 10-year-old girl from the Shipley's Choice area of Severna Park was shot in the head yesterday afternoon by a friend who thought the handgun she found on a basement shelf was a toy, Anne Arundel County police said.
Rachel Koether of the 300 block Lazywood Court was flown to Children's Hospital National Medical Center in Washington, where she was listed in critical condition last night.
Police spokesman V. Richard Molloy said Rachel, her sister, Tish, and another girl were playing in the backyard, but went inside to the basement of the two-story brick home to cool off.
The 11-year-old friend, whose identity was not divulged, found the loaded .22-caliber handgun on a shelf. "She thought it was a toy," Officer Molloy said. "She began playing with it. It went off and struck Rachel in the left side of the head above the ear."
Officer Molloy said Rachel's parents, George and Anne Koether, were upstairs when they heard a shot and a scream about 2:30 p.m. He said Mr. Koether owned the gun, which was loaded with eight bullets.
He said the parents and the girl who shot Rachel were "extremely upset." Police drove the parents to the hospital.
Officer Molloy said that police will interview the parents today but that it did not appear any charges will be filed. "There was no malicious intent on the parents' part," Mr. Molloy said. "It was strictly accidental."
Rachel's softball coach, Dennis Scanlon, said the girl was scheduled to play catcher in the upcoming season with the Greater Severna Park Association league. Her team was called the "Red Hots."
"This was her first year playing, and she was doing very well," Mr. Scanlon said. "She really was a good kid and she really wanted to play softball. She and her dad would be out and practicing on the front lawn many evenings."
Neighbors said they either did not know the family well or did not want to talk about the incident, which brought the unusual sight of emergency vehicles to the well-to-do residential community near Benfield Boulevard, Route 3 and Interstate 97.
"I heard a girl screaming hysterically," said a neighbor who did not want his name used. "I didn't think anything of it because I raised two girls and they tend to do that. Fifteen minutes later, I heard the sirens and I thought it was an accident.
"Then I went to the window and I saw two ambulances and four police cars. Why have a loaded gun in the house?"