The family of an 11-year-old girl shot in the face while sitting in a car in northern Tasmania on Tuesday night have spoken out.
Phoenix Newitt underwent emergency surgery in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne on Wednesday morning to remove bullet fragments from her face, neck, skull and heart.
She is in a stable condition, with her mother Sarah Newitt by her side.
Phoenix was in the backseat of the car with her four-year-old cousin in Stagg Court in Deloraine about 9pm on Tuesday when she was allegedly shot by a 25-year-old man.
Her mother, and uncle Zack Newitt, were in the front seat.
“We’re all just really shaken about this. She’s a beautiful little girl,” Mr Newitt said.
“It’s torture, it’s absolutely horrible – especially with someone so innocent from anything.”
“She is just a beacon of light. Everyone loves her. The number of people, strangers, who’ve sent me messages and stopped me as I’m walking in the street and they’re crying because it’s Phoenix.”
Police, who were called to the Deloraine Medical Centre on Tuesday night, will allege the 25-year-old man fired the weapon from a distance of about 50 metres.
“We will be alleging that a projectile has entered the right-hand rear passenger side of the vehicle, fragmented and struck the 11-year-old girl in the right side of her face,” Detective Inspector John King said.
Phoenix was transferred from the medical centre to the Launceston General Hospital before being flown to Melbourne.
In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, police said a “25-year-old Deloraine man has been charged with causing grievous bodily harm and recklessly discharging a firearm” and would appear in court later in the day.
Alleged confrontation at Woolworths
Detective Inspector King said an hour before the shooting Sarah Newitt had allegedly been involved in a physical altercation with another woman at the Deloraine Woolworths.
“One lady has received a bite mark, the other has received a cut to her head,” he said.
Detective Inspector King said the man in custody was in a relationship with the other woman and present at the supermarket dispute.
The firearm involved in the incident has not been located but is believed to be a small-calibre rifle.
Detectives have flown to Melbourne to speak with the mother.
Gunshot ‘made me jump’, witness says
A man who lives near Stagg Court told the ABC he heard the gunshot.
“Bit shocked, because yeah, I was a bit reluctant to go out the front of my house,” the man, who asked not to be named, said.
“I wanted to come out and have a smoke … I decided to come out the back. It sort of made me jump a bit when I heard it.”
In response to the shooting, a Department of Education spokesperson said it was a “terribly sad time for the family and the school community”.
“The department is ensuring professional support is being provided to all students and staff who may be affected,” they said.
“All schools have measures in place to ensure the welfare of staff and students is prioritised during difficult times such as this.”