Man Shoots Eight-Year-Old Cousin in Halloween Costume After Mistaking Her For A Skunk At A Family Bonfire

There is a bizarre case out of Pennsylvania that raises both potential tort and criminal liability. At a family Halloween bonfire, Janet Grant spotted a skunk and told her son Thomas Grant to fetch a shotgun and shoot it. When he returned, Janet Grant shined a flashlight on the animal while her son shot it. It was only then that they discovered that Thomas Grant had just shot his eight-year-old cousin in her black and white Halloween costume. What is amazing is that authorities say that they are considering possible animal gaming charges.

Fortunately, the little girl survived with a wound to the shoulder and abdomen.

The police in Beaver County have not brought charges and alcohol does not appear to have been a factor.

Putting aside the family connection (which presumably makes the likelihood of a lawsuit unlikely), there is a basis for both battery and negligence in such a wounding. With children in the area, the discharge of the firearm would seem pretty unreasonable even with the effort to illuminate “the animal.” Moreover, this would have to have been a pretty large skunk to be the size of an eight-year-old child.

Just for the record, the average weight of a standard spotted skunk in that area is a little over 1 pound. The biggest skunk is a hog-nosed skunk that can reach up to 18 pounds.

Source: ABC

32 thoughts on “Man Shoots Eight-Year-Old Cousin in Halloween Costume After Mistaking Her For A Skunk At A Family Bonfire

  1. I saw this amazing article and I thought Prof. Turley might write about it. It is unbelievable to me that anyone could confuse an eight year old in a skunk costume as a real skunk. It doesn’t make any sense. I smell a …skunk!

  2. There was no reason to blast a shotgun at what was believed to be a skunk. All they had to do was throw something toward it and it would have run away. Plus, even if it WAS an actual skunk, why would you blow it away and unleash the stench?

    Then there is the obvious issue of the child that was hit. Haven’t they heard of backdrop?

    As for the game charge, seems like they are just trying to pin ‘something’ on them for posterity sake. The only thing I might be able to think of would be discharging a firearm at night. But as for regular hunting laws where is the corpus delicti? That is, an actual animal. Even if they intended to illegally shoot an animal there was no animal shot at and therefore lacking the essential element of the crime.

    A reckless endangerment, or reckless discharge of a firearm would have probable cause in a case such as this in my view.

  3. Luckily the little girl survived. This could have easily ended in criminally negligent manslaughter. Guns are not toys.

  4. Best felony charge would be an assault alleging recklessness and serious bodily injury (Assault 2nd in Missouri) or felony endangering the welfare of a child: “knowingly acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk…”

  5. raff,

    Yep. I just don’t get that guns are toys mindset. I mean when I go shooting (and it’s rarely hunting, I’d rather fish), I go to a range or out to my uncle’s in the country where he’s got a makeshift but functional range (berms, safe distances, etc.). That’s a lot different than hanging around a bonfire just “a shootin'” – especially when children are present. I understand the need for the 2nd Amendment and I support it, but what I don’t understand is gun stupidity. It’s not as if they have any other design purpose than to harm.

  6. Hello Second Amendment fans, those founding fathers sure did like surplusage– that stupid stuff about the “well regulated militia”. Founding fathers, such kidders.

  7. It is obvious that these folks should NOT be allowed to own or use firearms. I think a conviction on a felony charge will fix that problem for good.

  8. I have to disagree w/ Mr. Turley about the family connection making a lawsuit less likely. I worked many personal injury cases family v family. They were some of the nastiest.

  9. rafflaw:

    “When adults with mind’s like a child have guns, bad things happen.”

    you said it.

    I was once literally scared for my life when a big dumb dufus had a derringer and did not really know how to use it. He had an 8 year old son with him at a friends place and I was sure he was going to shoot me or the kid. It was bad and he was too stupid to know.

  10. Where were this child’s parents? Is this child going to be discharged from the hospital to return to this lunatic family? Isn’t EVERY accidental shooting of a human being then subject to scrutiny by law enforcement? Was the eight-year-old deaf that she did not hear her alleged aunt call for her alleged cousin to go get a gun to shoot her? How would anybody expect a skunk to hang around long enough for someone to fetch a gun and return with it? How is that story accepted as believable? Why is this story being accepted at face value by ANYBODY? Is it a total hoax?

  11. There are over 300 million persons in the USA. By definition, their average IQ is 100. That’s more than 150 million with an IQ over 100, and, yes, more than 150 million with an IQ of less than 100 …

    You don’t really want anyone with an IQ of less than 85 or so handling dangerous machines of any kind. A firearm falls into that category.

    We may all be equal under the law. That does not make us all equal.

  12. Romney needs to be careful that no wingnut mistakes him for a skunky liberal plant and pops a cap in his posterior, especially after last night’s debate.

  13. Well Frances….not all America own guns….. Just the ones in Texas….. Occasionally we have visiting vice presidents that shoot attorney’s in the face and get away with it…..

  14. What makes you people think this child will survive. As of the last notice regarding her condition she is still in critical condition 3 days later. This child is in jepoardy of losing her life. The flippant remarks made on this post are disgusting. The injuries discribed on this small girl are devastating and, if she survives, may cause life long disability. The man who discharged this weapon in the vacinity of children and nearby homes should at the very least be charged with criminal negligence. If the child dies those charges should be upgraded to criminally negligent homicide. What this man feels is besides the point. Laws are in place to assure that “accidents” like this are infrequent by holding transgressors accountable. This man should be held accountable with his mother as an accomplice.

  15. This is a very sad story. I feel very sorry for the young child who was injured. I hope she has a full and speedy recovery. As for the aunt and son, they should never be allowed near a gun. What kind of person shoots an animal in a residential area especially with children nearby? Isn’t that against the law?

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