Constable Clarke Steele intended to shoot Donald Meyer, who had allegedly pulled a gun on him, but the bullet passed through Meyer's arm and struck his daughter, Ciara Meyer, who died at the scene, reports WGAL-TV.
WGAL posted a lengthy statement from Pennsylvania State Police, who are investigating the incident that happened shortly after 10 a.m. Monday.
The statement said that Donald Meyer answered the door, then closed it, then reopened it and "engaged Constable Steele in a brief exchange of words, and then leveled a loaded .223 caliber rifle, which had been slung and concealed along his body, directly at Constable Steele with a point of aim at his chest."
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Steele, who was in uniform, responded by firing one shot from a .40-caliber duty weapon, police said. "The bullet traveled through the suspect's arm and struck the suspect's 12-year-old daughter, who was standing directly behind her father," the statement said. "The suspect was flown to the Hershey Medical Center, where he is undergoing medical care. The suspect's daughter was pronounced dead at the scene."
Police said Meyer's rifle was found with a loaded chamber and a magazine containing 30 rounds. Meyer has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, making terroristic threats, and recklessly endangering another person, police said.
Bill Stoeffler, a spokesman for the Constables' Association, to which Steele belongs, said Tuesday that Steele was "completely distraught over this incident – this is the worst nightmare any of us as constables can encounter," reports the Harrisburg Patriot-News
"It was absolutely not intentional that the girl was shot," Stoeffler said. "The constable fired one round when he faced an immediate threat from which he could not retreat safely – he had no other force options … The situation degraded so quickly he had no time to call anyone."
In Pennsylvania, constables are elected officials with limited law enforcement powers, reports the Associated Press. They perform duties such as serving warrants and transporting prisoners.
State police said they are continuing to investigate the incident with the Perry County district attorney's office.