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Executed Journalist Steven Sotloff Noted for His Heartfelt War Reporting


File photo of American journalist Steven Sotloff (center with black helmet). Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- ISIS appears to have cruelly executed American journalist Steven Sotloff just one week after his mother pleaded with the group's leader to "be merciful" and spare her son.

Shirley Sotloff's heartbreaking bid for her son's life was ignored and a video was released Tuesday indicating he was the second American journalist to be beheaded by the Islamic militant group, ostensibly in retribution for U.S. planes bombing ISIS fighters in Iraq.


Sotloff's parents have declined any media interviews and have been enduring an agonizing wait after James Foley was executed last month and Sotloff was shown on his knees, wearing an orange jumpsuit and threatened with execution. Their only public words were Shirley Sotloff's video message to ISIS' caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi saying, "I ask you justice be merciful and not [to] punish my son for matters he has no control over. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”

[READ MORE: New Video Appears to Show ISIS Execution of Second American Steven Sotloff]

At the time of his capture, Sotloff, 31, had been covering the Middle East for years as a freelance reporter, including stints in Yemen and Egypt. He wrote for Time magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Caller, Foreign Policy, and most recently for World Affairs journal.

The reporter studied journalism at the University of Central Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. His articles online show heartfelt reporting about the brutality of the Syrian war.

His parents live in Miami, and Sotloff's last Tweet, from August 2013, was about the Miami Heat NBA team.

His Twitter feed, which was his major online presence beyond his reported stories, showed a mix of humor and seriousness about his reporting.

Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?

— Steven Sotloff (@stevensotloff) June 12, 2013

Friends of Sotloff and his family had started a White House petition urging the government to do all it can to rescue the freelance reporter.

"Steven Sotloff is an American citizen and reporter with Time magazine who is believed to have gone missing in August of 2013," the petition read. "Today, on August 19, 2014 it was revealed that Steven is a captive of the Islamist terrorist organization ISIS."

"We, the undersigned call upon you, President Obama, to take immediate action to save Steven's life by any means necessary,” it said.

Matthew Van Dyke, a documentary filmmaker, self-described “revolutionary” and friend of Sotloff's, told ABC News that the two last saw each other in Washington, D.C., just a few weeks before Sotloff's disappearance. Van Dyke has reported from the Middle East, and joined the fighting during the Libyan revolution, and was held as a prisoner of war.

"We were talking about his upcoming trip to Syria," Van Dyke said. "I feel horrible for what he's going through, I can't really imagine. I mean I thought I had a tough time in Libya but to be held by ISIS for this long, Steven's been there for a year now and who knows what kind of conditions they're in. It's absolutely horrifying. I can't imagine it."

World Affairs, the journal that had most recently employed Sotloff, described him as "an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly. He is certainly courageous."
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Hackers Who Leaked Celeb Photos Could Face Jail Time


iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The hackers who leaked explicit photos of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton will likely face jail time, if previous cases are any indication.

The FBI said it is actively investigating the case, after dozens of private, risqué photos of stars appeared online late Sunday, and the U.S. Justice Department has a history of taking a hard stance against hackers who target celebrities –- though prison sentences have varied.

In December 2012, Christopher Chaney was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to hacking into the personal email accounts of stars including Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis and Christina Aguilera.

Chaney, from Jacksonville, Florida, pleaded guilty in federal court in Los Angeles to counts that included wiretapping and unauthorized access to a computer.

In March, Jared Abrahams, a computer science student from southern California, was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to hacking into the personal computers of several women, including Cassidy Wolf, a former Miss Teen USA. He demanded they send nude photos and videos, or else risk their explicit photos being leaked online.

Abrahams, 19, pleaded guilty to extortion and unauthorized access to a computer.

Months earlier, Karen "Gary" Kazaryan of Glendale, California, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to hacking into hundreds of online accounts and using extortion to coerce women into sending naked photos.

In the most recent case, the photos were hacked by targeting the celebrities' user names and passwords, according to Apple, rather than breaching Apple's iCloud system as a whole. Hacking is a computer crime, and at least one of the affected actresses, Jennifer Lawrence, has been clear about wanting to prosecute, through a statement by her attorney.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on this specific case or speculate on any specific charges.

The photos have sparked concerns about cyber safety, and the security of storing photos and videos on the cloud.

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Uzi Was 'Too Much,' Girl Said After Fatal Gun Range Accident


iStock/Thinkstock(KINGMAN, Ariz.) -- The 9-year-old girl who accidentally shot her gun instructor when she lost control of a powerful Uzi submachine gun dropped the weapon and complained that it was "too much" for her to handle, according to a police report of the incident released Tuesday.

The girl's parents huddled around her as she gripped her shoulder that she said was injured by the gun's powerful recoil after she fired the automatic weapon at Bullets and Burgers gun range in Arizona. The girl's parents comforted their injured daughter, not realizing at that point that she had fatally shot her instructor, Charles Vacca.

The girl's mother told police that she saw her daughter drop the gun before turning towards her parents and telling them "the gun was too much for her and it hurt her shoulder."

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office has released their incident report, which includes descriptions of the shooting from both of the girl's parents.

"[The girl's mother] said no one knew Vacca was shot until the other instructor ran over," the report reads.

Vacca was identified in the report as a range master at the facility and he had been working with the New Jersey family while they were on vacation in Las Vegas.

One of Vacca's colleagues, a range instructor, told police that he was standing by when the shooting happened and he saw the girl, whose name was redacted from the police report because of her age, shoot the mini 9 mm Uzi.

The instructor "saw the girl start to shoot the weapon and due to the recoil, the weapon went straight up in the air and crossed the path where Charles had his head," the report states.

The instructor rushed to Vacca's side after he collapsed and began applying pressure to the head wound. The girl's father said that their first indication that something was wrong only came when the instructor ran over to Vacca.

The incident was filmed by the girl’s parents as they stood behind both she and Vacca and recorded her on their iPhone. The girl’s mother shared that video with police as soon as they spoke with her at the gun range’s restaurant.

No charges have been filed in the case and responding officers noted that they believed it was an accidental shooting. The range allows anyone above the age of 8 to shoot automatic weapons if the instructor believes they are suitable.

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Passengers Thankful After Coast Guard Rescues Five from Sinking Boat


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) --  The mayday call came in -- five passengers on a sinking boat, 17 miles off the coast of San Diego, their boat without power.

The 30-foot boat lost power Saturday after the pump system failed to operate. Water weighed the vessel down, with the boat leaning precariously to one side.

Passenger Mike Jernigan knew something was drastically wrong.

“I didn’t know if there was a giant hole in the boat, or a pinhole in the boat, but there was a problem,” said Jernigan.

The passengers, who had been fishing, radioed the Coast Guard for help and fired an emergency flare, hoping for a miracle.

“We just started bailing the water out," using water bottles, passenger John Grudzinski said. “So we were just dunking water bottles in and throwing those out.”

The water bottles could only do so much. As the situation grew increasingly dire, a good Samaritan on a nearby boat rushed to the passengers’ rescue. The Coast Guard followed moments later, using pumps to remove the water before towing the boat to safety.

“On the way back we were full of energy, full of zeal for saving lives,” Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Rambo said. “It’s why we joined. It’s what we’re here for.”

Jernigan is thankful for the rescue efforts. “I mean, I won’t forget these people,” he added.

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Accused Killer in Florida Faces 'Get Out of Jail Free' Pass


Creatas/Thinkstock(BROWARD COUNTY, Fla.) -- A Florida man charged in a gruesome slaying faces an all-or-nothing offer that could set him free from jail.

Gustavo Dubon could also spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted in the 2007 killing of Francisco Cuevas. The businessman’s remains were uncovered months after his death, located inside a rusted metal box found in a wooded area.

Dubon was charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder last year, after police said he confessed. Dubon has pleaded not guilty.

In a newly released recording, the two detectives working the case were caught on a recording telling their supervisor they think Dubon is innocent.

“Seriously. Serious, serious doubts that Dubon had anything to do with this,” Det. David Young is heard saying to Brian Koenig on the recording.

That interaction was recorded when one of the detectives failed to remove his microphone after interviewing an unrelated suspect on another case. The recording was later released to the attorney for Dubon.

On the audio, the detectives claim Dubon gave a false confession rife with errors about key case details.

Despite the presence of the audio, Broward County assistant state attorney Gregg Rossman is still moving forward with the trial.

“What you hear in that audio is an intelligent debate between two very good detectives and their sergeant, and has no impact, no effect at all on the case,” Rossman said.

But authorities are offering Dubon the polygraph as a possible “get out of jail free” pass.

“Both parties agree that it's admissible in court and if, in fact, the defendant passes the polygraph examination as to their involvement in the crime, we drop the case, or dismiss the case,” Rossman said. “If the party fails, and is deceptive on the exam as to their involvement in the case, then the stipulated polygraph is admissible in court in front of a jury and can be used as evidence against them.”

Dubon is still undecided about whether he will take the polygraph.

Proponents say the tests are accurate about 90 percent of the time, according to the American Polygraph Association, while critics argue that the accuracy is closer to 70 percent.

The next hearing is set for Thursday.

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'AK-47 Bandit' Resurfaces in Nebraska Bank Heist


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEBRASKA CITY, Neb.) -- A manhunt is underway for a notorious bank robber known as the “AK-47 Bandit,” suspected in a slew of brazen heists across the northwest and now in Nebraska.

At a press conference in Chino, Calif., on Monday where the heavily armed suspect’s spree is believed to have begun, police said the bandit is armed, dangerous and at it again.

“We’re going to do whatever we can do, use every resource available to us to hunt this guy down and take him into custody,” Chino Police Chief Miles Pruitt said.

The unidentified bank robber is a suspect in five bank robberies in four states, including an Aug. 22 robbery at the First National Bank Branch in Nebraska City, Neb. In the recent robbery, the suspect ordered employees to empty out the vault, making off with a duffel bag full of cash.

And just like each heist before, he was seen during the Nebraska heist carrying a high-powered assault weapon, complete with a round drum magazine.

Investigators suspect the man may have been a law enforcement officer at some point. He’s been seen wearing a sheriff’s vest during some of his holdups.

“His tactics suggest he may have had military or law enforcement experience,” Pruitt said.

The spree started two years ago at the California Bank and Trust in Chino. The bandit allegedly called 911 to report a bomb threat, apparently to create a diversion before carrying out the 2012 robbery.

During the escape, he opened fire on a police officer, seriously wounding the officer. That officer has since recovered from his injuries.

After the heist in California, the FBI says the man robbed banks in Idaho, Washington and Nebraska. Each time, he’s worn a black ski mask to hide his face, and he’s always been seen carrying the same AK-47.

According to the FBI, the suspect has been seen leaving the scene of robberies in a dark gray Nissan Maxima. He’s described as white, about 5-feet-10 and 180 to 220 pounds.

Authorities have offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the suspect’s arrest.

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Over 30 Juveniles Escape from Tennessee Detention Center


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- A number of "students" at the Woodland Hills Youth Development Center escaped from their dorm on Monday night, fleeing from the detention center.

According to Rob Johnson, Communications Director for the Tennessee Department of Child Services, 32 of the teens, aged 14 to 17, were able to climb under the anti-climb chain-linked fence at around 11 p.m. At least some of the juveniles have felonies on their records.

Johnson said that the escape occurred during a shift change. "As the staff were trying to get the youth back into the dorms and out of the yard, they realized that some of them had managed to pull up a fence and crawl underneath it," he said Tuesday morning.

Many of the teens had histories that included aggravated burglary or robbery, theft, violent crimes including robbery or assault, among other legal issues.

The Metro Nashville Police and the Tennessee Highway Patrol are searching the surrounding neighborhood for the escaped children.

By 11 a.m. ET, all but eight of the teens had been captured or had surrendered. Johnson said he was confident that all of the escapees would be found.


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Delta Flight Re-Routed Due to Passenger Disruption


iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  A Delta flight from New York to Florida was re-routed Monday, the airline confirmed – the third flight diversion caused by passenger disruption in recent weeks.

Delta Flight 2370 departed New York at about 7 p.m. Monday, en route to West Palm Beach. The flight was diverted to Jacksonville due to the disturbance.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the captain elected to divert to the closest airport,” the airline said in a statement. “Local law enforcement met the flight and removed the passenger.”

The flight continued on to West Palm Beach, arriving after 11 p.m.

Clashes over shrinking legroom contributed to two incidents last week. A Miami to Paris flight landed in Boston on Wednesday after air marshals on the plane restrained a man who fought with a passenger trying to recline in front of him, a law enforcement source told ABC News.

That incident came days after a man on a United Airlines flight used a product called a Knee Defender to keep the seat in front of him from reclining. The woman in front, unable to recline, got into an argument with the man and reportedly threw a cup of water in his face. Both passengers were seated in United’s Economy Plus section, which gives fliers extra legroom for an extra fee.

The argument prompted the Newark, New Jersey-to-Denver flight to be diverted to Chicago, United Airlines confirmed, adding that the unidentified passengers were not allowed back on when the plane continued on to Denver.


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New Hampshire Police Searching for Men Who Tried Kidnapping College Student


iStock/Thinkstock(DURHAM, N.H.) -- Police in New Hampshire continue to look for three men who tried kidnapping a college student as she walked home but were stopped by her friends.

The attempted abduction happened near the University of New Hampshire in Durham early Friday morning.

According to investigators, the woman told police she was walking home when three "military-looking" men pulled up in a tan, four-door sedan.

"It was an attempt to introduce themselves to her and when that seemed to fail, it was a little bit more aggressive," said Durham Police Chief David Kurz.

She told police two of the men grabbed her by the arm and tried throwing her inside the sedan's open trunk. The attempted kidnapping was foiled when her friends arrived and the men drove off.

The university alerted students about the abduction attempt the next day, ABC News affiliate WMUR-TV reported.

"It's pretty scary because we live around the corner," said student Morgan DiDonato.

"That could be me one day," added Cassandra Izzo, another student. "I could be walking by my friend's house and someone could try to pick me up."

The incident also has parents like Sherri Trocci worried with classes beginning Tuesday.

"It's a little disconcerting," she said. "We did some safety training. We did a little self-defense training before she came here. Hopefully, that will be in the back of her mind."

After the attempted abduction, several students told ABC News they downloaded the Live Safe app, which includes neighborhood safety reports and real-time sharing location with friends and police.

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Ferguson Police Receive Body Camera Donation


iStock/Thinkstock(FERGUSON, Mo.) -- A mobile video surveillance company has donated body cameras to the Ferguson Police Department, the Missouri police department that has been roiled by protests after an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by a police officer.

Witnesses claimed the teenager, Michael Brown, was surrendering and putting up his hands when he was shot at least six times. Defenders of the police officer, Darren Wilson, claim the officer suffered a serious facial injury in his confrontation with Brown and that the teenager was moving toward Wilson when he fired.

The Ferguson police department did not have body cameras at the time of the encounter. A state grand jury is hearing evidence in the case and the Justice Department is also looking into the shooting.

Safety Vision, a Texas-based manufacturer of video equipment for law enforcement agencies, has donated five body cameras to the Ferguson police department.

In a statement released on their website, the company said the donation was made "in an effort to protect both law enforcement and the public with the capture of indisputable evidence."

The body cameras have eight hours of recording life and a police radio interface, according to the company's website.

The Ferguson Police Department did not return ABC News' request for comment.

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Ellis Island Hospital Tours Coming in October


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For the first time in 60 years, visitors to Ellis Island will be able to reenter its south-side hospital this October.

A massive complex comprised of 30 buildings, including staff residences and a mortuary, the hospital screened immigrants for infectious diseases before it was shuttered in 1954. But thanks to the diligence of nonprofit group Save Ellis Island in partnership with the National Parks Service, new tours will now be offered to groups of 10 visitors at a time.

Previously, the buildings in the public health complex were considered too dilapidated and dangerous to permit entry. After partial restoration, however, program tours will now make 18 stops around the campus and allow guests to experience another side of American history: Approximately 10% of the 12 million immigrants who made their way through Ellis Island arrived too sick to enter the country, according to the nonprofit group.

A photography exhibit by artist JR is also being installed on select interiors of the complex, and will include life-size portraits of immigrants pasted onto windows and walls to add context to the spaces.

Ticket prices have yet to be announced but will be available for purchase on the Save Ellis Island website beginning Sept. 25. Proceeds from the sales will go toward the further remediation of the complex.

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Woman Ran Multi-Million Dollar Prostitution Ring Out of Bikini Barista Stands, Cops Say


iStock/Thinkstock(SEATTLE) -- A Washington woman has been charged with running a multi-million dollar prostitution ring from the "bikini barista" stands she owned and operated.

Carmela Panico, of Snohomish County, Wash., was charged with promoting prostitution and money laundering, police told ABC affiliate KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Police say they caught baristas at six bikini barista coffee stands owned by Panico across Snohomish County engaged in acts with customers that went beyond merely serving coffee.

According to court records obtained by KOMO-TV, Panico allegedly set a sales goal for the women working each coffee shift that was used as "effectively rent that the girls paid to have the opportunity to perform lewd conduct and acts of prostitution."

The young women made anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 a month, according to the documents. One girl allegedly made $89,000.

The baristas were fined if they did not wear high heels, have a tan, or wear makeup, according to the documents.

Panico's bank records, obtained by police, show that she deposited more than $2 million between 2010 and 2013.

Police say she kept two sets of accounting books. The first book was allegedly intended for the IRS and Washington State Department of Revenue and the second detailed her actual profit.

Detectives also allegedly confiscated $227,863 in cash from Panico's home, according to KOMO-TV.

A police investigation into Panico and her coffee businesses began when the department began to receive complaints about baristas showing their breasts to customers for tips.

Last summer, a sergeant at the Snohomish County Detective's Office was arrested for allegedly giving Panico information on undercover operations to gain evidence against her suspected prostitution ring, in exchange for sex.

The sergeant resigned after he was charged with promoting prostitution and official misconduct.

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Eight-Year-Old Turns Lemons Into Lemonade for Wounded Vet


iStock/Thinkstock(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- An Iraq war veteran who served 12 1/2 years protecting his country would be considered by most a hero.

But for this war veteran, his hero is a generous 8-year-old girl named Rachel Mennett.

"She's helped us accomplish so much in such a little amount of time," Nick Bailey, 34, of North Charleston, South Carolina, told ABC News. "For an 8-year-old girl to do something like this, to me, that is just heroic."

Bailey was injured by a mortar attack while on duty in Iraq. He sustained spinal injuries and nerve damage and has undergone several surgeries to try to help his physical pain, but those aren’t the only remnants of war that ail him. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of Bailey's biggest comforts throughout it all, however, has been his faithful friend-- his dog, Abel.

He and his wife, Vanessa, have had the German Shepherd ever since he was a 10-week-old puppy. Abel comforts Bailey when he's awoken from nightmares, lays on his lap while he suffers from migraines and helps steady his balance while he walks with a cane.

But in order to truly help to the level that Bailey requires on a daily basis, Abel needs formal service dog training, which comes with a lofty price tag.

"Our original goal was to go to a trainer in Arizona who is the best of the best, but it's $15,000,” Vanessa explained. "We never thought we'd be able to reach that. But every other organization we went to kept turning us down."

The family set up a GoFundMe page in the beginning of August to try to raise at least $6,000 before taking out a loan to fulfill the rest, but it just wasn't coming close to the amount they needed. That is, however, until little Rachel entered the picture.

"I had never met her until that day at the pet store when her brother called and said, 'Hey, my sister is doing a lemonade stand,'" Bailey recalled.

Rachel's older brother works at a pet store in Summerville, South Carolina, where Bailey would often take Abel. Once her brother got wind that Bailey was actively searching for service training for Abel, but didn't have the funds to afford it, he shared the story with his family.

"He took an interested to it and went home to his family and his little sister, at 8 years old, said, 'I think I'd like to help him. I want to do a lemonade stand,'" said Bailey. "At her age, that's amazing."

And sure enough, that's exactly what she did. Rachel set up shop in the pet store to help raise money for the wounded veteran she'd never met.

"It means a great deal to me," Bailey explained. "For a veteran like myself who sees a lot of dismay in the world today, it gives us hope for the next generation."

The attention the lemonade stand has received has significantly helped Bailey towards his goal, something for which he is eternally grateful.

"This little girl has done so much, more than she'll ever know," he said. "I'm really hoping once Abel is finally fully-trained, that he and I can go visit her at her school to do an assembly to present her with something to thank her. She's just an exceptional child, an exceptional human being, actually."

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Texas Firefighters Comfort Grieving Widow With Act of Kindness


iStock/Thinkstock(BAYTON, Texas) -- Texas firefighters finished mowing the lawn of a man who suffered a heart attack mid-mow and comforted his wife in an act of kindness that has brought together an entire community.

Firefighters from Bayton, Texas, responded to a 911 call on Tuesday for a man who suffered a heart attack while mowing his lawn, according to a statement released by the City of Bayton on its Facebook page.

After taking the man to a hospital, members of Bayton Fire Department's Station 4, A-Shift returned to the man's home to finish mowing his lawn. They then put the lawnmower away and locked the garage.

They also left behind a note with comforting words for the victim's wife.

"We felt bad that your husband didn't get to finish the yard," the firefighters said.

The firefighters also let the woman know they would be there for her in the future.

"We are very sorry that your husband became ill, we hope he has a speedy recovery," they said. "Let us know if there is anything we can do to help you out."

Members of the Baytown community have rallied around the firefighters for their act of kindness.

"All of our City employees are proud to serve the citizens of Baytown, but this is truly special," the city said in a statement posted on Facebook. "We couldn't be prouder of our guys from Station 4. Our prayers are with the family at this sad time."

The heart attack victim, who has not been identified, died.

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Children Shoot Guns at NM Firing Range


iStock/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- A New Mexico shooting range encourages children to practice shooting guns, despite a fatal accident this week involving a 9-year-old girl in Arizona.

Calibers, a shooting range in Albuquerque, New Mexico, lets children as young as 8 pull the trigger, according to ABC affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque.

The children can shoot "Uzis, MAC-11s, AR-15s, and AK-47s," Calibers Training Director Jordan Nighbert told KOAT.

It's common for children to shoot the weapons at the range, he said.

One Calibers customer, John Thompson, even added that he first took his kids shooting when they were only 6.

"To take the curiosity from it," Thompson told KOAT, explaining his motivation. "Whether they like it or not, they respect them."

No one has ever been hurt while a child shot a gun at the Calibers firing range, Nighbert said.

That's in contrast to the case of an Arizona firing range where a 9-year-old accidentally shot and killed her gun instructor last Monday. The girl was shooting an Uzi.

Nighbert doubts that such an accident could happen at his gun range-- he only allows children to shoot weapons with barrels longer than 16 inches, he told KOAT.

"With a short barrel, it's a very short movement for that barrel to cover my body and put me in danger," he said. "With a long barrel, even if you had poor recoil control, the muzzle can't cover my head."

Nighbert also said Calibers considers a customer's shooting skill, physical skill and maturity before allowing children to shoot weapons.

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