Archive for Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Investigation into girl’s shooting continues

5-year-old youth critically injured Saturday afternoon while playing outside rural Linwood residence

February 27, 2008, 1:12 a.m.

Updated: February 27, 2008, 8:27 p.m.

— A 5-year-old Linwood-area girl was receiving food through tubes, just days after a bullet struck her in the as she played in her backyard, according to the girl's grandmother, Pat Cook.

Katherine Cook was taken to an area hospital Saturday after a bullet struck her in the head as she played in her backyard.

The girl had been listed in critical condition Monday at a Kansas City area hospital . However, beginning Tuesday, Children's Mercy Hospital said it had no information on her condition.

"A lot of people are praying for her," said Pat Cook.

With her parents constantly by her side, the 5-year-old remains on life support, receiving food through a feeding tube in her mouth. "Both of them are in the room," Pat Cook said.. "They don't want to leave her alone."

On Monday, Katherine showed some signs of brain activity by lifting her leg. Wednesday, her grandmother said, "She is slowly improving. She's lifting her arm and her leg."

Doctors have not removed the bullet in the girl's head, but there has not been any new bleeding.

Cook also said Katherine's six brothers and sisters, "go in and see her everyday."

Meanwhile, Leavenworth County Sheriff's officers continue to investigate.

Sheriff Dave Zoellner said his department has been conducting interviews, but has no new information on the case.

"I'm not going to tell you there are leads or not leads, but we're continuing with the investigation," Zoellner said. "And with that, it takes a lot of interviewing. And it might be interviewing two or three times."

In addition, Zoellner's officers are trying to figure out where the bullet came from and who fired it.

Zoellner, who called the shooting a tragedy, said Tuesday he didn't believe the girl was the victim of a drive-by shooting or was targeted by whoever shot her.

"At this juncture in this investigation, there's not any indication of any malicious act," Zoellner said Tuesday.

At 4:40 p.m. Saturday, Katherine was sitting on the back porch of her home while her 6- and 7-year-old brothers played nearby, Cook said. They heard a shot, or something that sounded like a firecracker, she said. Katherine screamed and then fell, her grandmother said.

The girl was flown by helicopter to a Kansas City-area hospital. The bullet struck her just above one eye but didn't pass through her head, Pat Cook said. Doctors do not plan to remove the bullet, she said. It was not known how much damage the bullet may have caused, but on Monday the girl did raise one leg, Cook said.

"She's heavily sedated," she said Monday. "She was doing a wee bit better. It's a miracle that she's doing as well as she is."

Doctors planned to slowly begin removing life-support devices from the girl to see how Katherine reacts, Cook said.

The girl's house at 12480 170th St., is about four miles east of Linwood. Officers set up a checkpoint, stopping motorists on Monday, in hopes of finding someone who could provide information about Katherine's shooting.

As of Wednesday, those checks had stopped, but Zoellner said, "They'll resume checks probably Saturday around the time of the incident."

Anyone with information about the shooting late Saturday afternoon is encouraged to call the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office, (913) 758-4082.

According to a Jefferson County hunting guide, if X-rays can tell officers what kind of bullet is lodged in the girl's head, that should help in reconstructing the shooting.

"Once you are able to figure out what it is, where she was and what she was doing, they ought to be able to figure out which direction (the bullet) came from," Mike Nickels said.

Doctors have not removed the bullet in the girl's head, but there has not been any new bleeding.

Without more information about the bullet, there are too many possibilities to speculate much on the incident, Nickels said. For rifle bullets to travel long distances, they would have to be shot at an elevated angle, he said.

"Normally what happens is your trajectory fails so quickly," Nickels said. "If you are going to shoot straight across a field, the bullet would hit the ground after 500 yards. It is going to drop several feet."

Moreover, any deflection - even from striking brush - would throw the bullet off even more, he said.

Zoellner said it's not unusual for people to hunt in the area of Katherine's home.

"It's a wooded area, and it's not uncommon for people to do target practice in the area," he added.

Zoellner said Tuesday he was working with the Cook family to have X-rays taken of Katherine's head to determine what type of bullet it is. However, he said there wasn't a timetable on when the X-ray could be taken.

There also have been reports from area neighbors that their animals have been shot by bullets.

Zoellner did not have any specific information on those reports.

"I'm assuming that came about on a neighborhood canvass," Zoellner said. "We're aware of that."

Meanwhile, Katherine's family remains at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital.

- 6News intern Cory Smith and Tonganoxie Mirror news editor Shawn Linenberger contributed to this story.

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