Twelve-year-old Ciara Meyer was standing behind her father when a constable came to the door.
The officer was serving an eviction notice Monday morning at their apartment near Duncannon, Pa., when police said the girl’s father pointed a rifle at the constable’s chest. Police said the officer drew his gun and pulled the trigger.
The bullet, police said, went though the man’s arm and struck his daughter.
“Very kind, sweet kid,” a neighbor told ABC affiliate WHTM. “Here’s a little girl that doesn’t even have a chance to grow up and live her life, and all because of this senseless act. It’s horrible, absolutely heartbreaking.”
The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.
The account of her shooting was provided to the station by Pennsylvania state police.
Authorities said Pennsylvania State Constable Clarke Steele went to the apartment about 10 a.m. Monday to serve a court-ordered eviction notice. The girl, identified by family members as Ciara Meyer, was sick and had stayed home from school.
Her father, Donald Meyer, 57, opened the door and then shut it, said Constable Bill Stoeffler, a spokesman with the Commonwealth Constables Association. Meyer opened the door again, Stoeffler said, and then raised a rifle that was slung across his body.
“The constable had no place to retreat to,” Stoeffler told The Washington Post. “He had to respond immediately.”
Stoeffler said Steele “managed to get his gun out and fire one round.” Then, he took cover and called for backup.
Upon arriving, authorities learned that the constable had shot Meyer and “tragically, the little girl,” Stoeffler said.
A neighbor who heard the shot said it wasn’t until later she found out who had been killed — and she was devastated.
“I burst into tears,” she told WHTM-TV. “I can’t understand it; it’s horrible.”
The neighbor, who was not named, said that her daughter was friends with the girl and that she didn’t know how to tell her the girl was gone.
“She’s not going to handle it very well,” she told the station. “It’s horrible. How do you tell a little girl that something like this happened? How do you explain that? I’m an adult, and I don’t understand it.”
The 12-year-old’s death is among at least 22 police shootings that have resulted in fatalities so far this year, according to a Washington Post database.
Donald Meyer, who was transported to Penn State Hershey Medical Center to be treated for his injuries, has been charged with simple assault, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and terroristic threats, according to court records.
He will be held without bail. A preliminary court hearing is set for Jan. 15.
Stoeffler, with the Commonwealth Constables Association, said he has spoken with the officer who fired the shot and said he is “devastated” about the incident.
“He’s absolutely heartbroken over the outcome of this,” Stoeffler told The Post.
Stoeffler said Steele has not been charged with a crime but has suspended his work voluntarily during the police investigation.
The nearby Susquenita School District said it is working with counselors to “provide support to students and staff” at this time.
“Procedures are in place across the district to address potential impacts of this incident to our students and staff,” Superintendent Kent Smith said in a statement. “Susquenita administration and additional professional staff (psychologists and guidance counselors) are working in conjunction with counselors from Holy Spirit (Teen Line) to provide support to students and staff as needed.”
A neighbor, Sarah Harman, told PennLive.com that the 12-year-old victim “was a sweet little girl — so kind, so loving. I just hope she didn’t suffer. … A child doesn’t deserve that — they are a precious gift from God.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help in the child’s name to help the family pay for funeral arrangements.
This post has been updated.