OREGON CITY, Ore. -- A 9-year-old girl died Sunday evening after getting shot in the head in her backyard in Oregon City.
Shayla May Shonneker was playing outside at around 5 p.m. in the 2000 block of 12th Street when a shot came from inside the home.
The boyfriend of the girl's mom, 32-year-old Joseph Wolters, was inside the home practicing with the gun when it went off and a bullet hit the girl, said Lt. Jim Band of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. Wolters cooperated in the investigation, Band said.
Shayla was taken to OHSU by LifeFlight helicopter where she died as soon as she arrived, Oregon City police said.
Wolters lived in the home. He had recently been hired by an armored transport company, Band said. He was practicing holstering and unholstering his handgun in preparation for a handgun qualification requirement at his new job.
Shocked neighbors gathered to share their grief.
Jill Ferguson, who lives nearby, said the 9-year-old was a typical child who could often be seen riding her bike down the street. She was always playing and was a sweet girl, Ferguson said.
"It's really sad that she died because she was a really nice girl," said Ferguson's son Eli. "I used to play with her."
Neighbor Cindy Gill, a former nurse, ran outside to help. But she couldn't get over the fence in time and watched as the family struggled to save Shayla's life.
“He was just sobbing and sobbing and saying ‘breathe honey breathe,’” Gill said. “If you would've heard the mother and father sobbing, it was just something out of your nightmares. I'm going to have a nightmare every night for a long time just listening of the sound of them trying, struggling to keep the little girl alive.”
Shayla went to Wetten Elementary in the Gladstone district, police said. Grief counselors were on hand Monday morning.
She is survived by her mother and father, a brother and half-brother, Band said. Wolters is the father of the half-brother. Her family released the following statement Monday afternoon:
We are saddened and shocked at the events that unfolded yesterday. Our little Shayla was playing outside when she was struck by a bullet. Trying to understand and comprehend the actions that led to the shooting are more than our family can deal with right now. It is more important that we deal with the very personal loss of Shayla. We know that this was an accident and there was no intent to harm Shayla in any way.
The family also created a community Facebook page, called "In Loving Memory of Shayla," where people can see pictures and share their condolences.
KGW Reporter Ashley Korslien contributed to this report.