A 17-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the chest yesterday afternoon by a friend who was showing off a gun, "waving it around" during a gathering of teenagers at a home in western Howard County, police said.

Katie Lea Weyer, of the 14000 block of Howard Road in Dayton, was in serious condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore last night after being taken there by helicopter, police said. The 18-year-old man who was handling the gun, who lives at the home in the 800 block of Iron Rail Court in Woodbine, was questioned but not arrested, police said.

Richard Malcolm, a police spokesman, said the victim gave statements that corroborated the 18-year-old man's account of the shooting.

"The statements we were able to get from the victim were she didn't believe it was intentional, malicious," Malcolm said.

Malcolm said the 18-year-old retrieved the handgun, believed to be a .22-caliber, from a home safe to which he had access. "He took the gun out of the safe and began waving it around," Malcolm said. He "began to play with the handgun, and a round accidentally discharged," Malcolm added.

Investigators said they believe that the victim was near a bathroom when she was hit, Malcolm said. The 18-year-old was in a den or office directly across the hall. Malcolm said police received a 911 call shortly after the 4:30 p.m. shooting.

Later in the afternoon, as word of the accident spread, a handful of teenagers went to Iron Rail Court, concerned that a friend may have been the victim.

Malcolm said neither drugs nor alcohol was believed to have been present at the gathering. He said the victim and the 18-year-old were there with two other 18-year-old men. No parents were home, he added.

The investigation is continuing.