A 10-year-old girl is in critical condition after a BB gun fired, hit her in the left eye and lodged inside her brain, Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said Friday.
The girl and her 9-year-old cousin were doing homework in the dining room of her great-aunt's house off state Highway 341 in Chickamauga when family members heard a shot, the sheriff said.
"There are some conflicting statements about how the gun discharged," he said. "(But) we believe it was accidental."
The BB gun was kept in a closet in the dining room, and the children somehow got hold of the weapon, Wilson said.
When police arrived the girl, whose name was not released but who is from Fort Oglethorpe, was rushed to Erlanger hospital. She was listed in critical condition in the children's intensive care unit there Friday afternoon, the sheriff said.
No one was at the home Friday afternoon, and a neighbor said the family was at the hospital.
While Erlanger hospital doesn't see many severe cases of BB gun wounds, children usually are the ones who suffer from such shootings, said Cindy Jackson, with the Safe and Sound program at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital.
"I've seen a couple of really bad head injuries from BB guns," she said. "It's the kids younger than 15 years old that are having these injuries."
While the sheriff said he's heard of injuries this severe from BB guns, he hasn't investigated one.
"I think every little boy has heard his momma or grandma say you can get your eye put out from a BB gun," he said.
Jackson, who also coordinates Safe Kids of Greater Chattanooga, said the organization urges parents to keep pellet and BB guns stored with other firearms in locked cabinets.
"They should never be thought of as toys," she said.
Wilson said the investigation is ongoing and investigators still have to interview the 9-year-old boy.