Sheriff’s officers seeking answers in girl’s shooting

5-year-old on life support after presumed errant bullet struck her in head

Katherine Cook

? A 5-year-old Linwood-area girl clung to life Monday, two days after a bullet struck her in the head as she played in her backyard.

Katherine Cook was in critical condition at a Kansas City area hospital.

“A lot of people are praying for her,” said Pat Cook, Katherine’s grandmother.

Meanwhile, Leavenworth County Sheriff’s officers tried to figure out where the bullet came from and who fired it. Leavenworth County Sheriff Dave Zoellner, who called the shooting a tragedy, said Monday he didn’t believe the girl was the victim of a drive-by shooting or was targeted by whoever shot her.

“We have no indication that that’s the case,” Zoellner said.

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. “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.

Sheriff’s officers continued their search of the area around the girl’s house at 12480 170th St., which is about four miles east of Linwood. They set up a checkpoint, stopping motorists on Monday, in hopes of finding someone who could provide information about Katherine’s shooting. 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.

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.