An 11-year-old girl is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after she was shot in the face following an altercation at a supermarket in northern Tasmania.
The girl was shot on the right side of her face and is being treated for fragments that are lodged in the upper part of her neck and lower skull. Fragments have also entered her heart and have traveled to other parts of her body via the bloodstream.
The girl was taken to the Deloraine Medical Centre and then sent immediately to Launceston General Hospital. She was then flown to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne for further treatment.
Detective Inspector John King from Tasmania Police said the little girl is lucky to be alive.
"A gunshot wound to the head can be catastrophic," King said at a press conference in Launceston on Wednesday. "It certainly didn't look good to start with but it's very, very pleasing to hear that her condition is improving."
Police were called to Stagg Court in Deloraine at 9.10pm on Tuesday evening, following an altercation that involved the mother of the girl, another women and at least one male. Police believe that this male, 25, fired the gunshot that injured the girl and he is currently in custody. No formal charges have been laid.
It is believed that the 25-year-old male knew the mother of the girl, however the man has no relation to the 11-year-old.
Police believe the dispute started about an hour before the shooting, at a Woolworths supermarket in Deloraine, between the two women. Initially the dispute was purely verbal, but turned physical.
"What I can tell you is that the dispute was between two female parties, it initially started as a verbal dispute, [then] became physical. One lady has received a bite mark and the other has received a cut to her head," King said.
Police say the man in custody was also present at the supermarket altercation. Police are still investigating what occurred in the time between the supermarket argument and the gunshot being fired.
Police will allege that when the girl was shot she was seated in the back of a car.
"In the front of the vehicle, we had the 11-year-old girl's mother. Her brother was also in the front of the vehicle. His son, the 4-year-old son, was in the rear of the vehicle," King said at the conference.
He estimates that the 11-year-old was shot from a 50-metre distance and said that the vehicle where the girl was shot was parked at the entrance to Stagg Court.
"It was parked at the entrance of Stagg Court," King said.
"And there was a verbal altercation between the alleged offender and the male person in the car and then that is when we will be alleging a shot was fired."
Tasmanian Police investigations continue.
Northern detectives are investigating an incident at Deloraine where an 11 year old girl received a suspected... https://t.co/3hud92jlLK— Tasmania Police (@TasmaniaPolice) August 30, 2017
When the girl arrived at the hospital she was in a critical condition, however she was stabilised on Wednesday morning.
King said the girl's family is devastated by the incident.
"[They are] very traumatised, as you can probably imagine. We've been in very close contact with the little girl's mother and we have local detectives who have traveled to Victoria to speak with her, provide support, and also gain witness evidence from her."
It follows the fatal shooting of a child in Sydney earlier this week. On Monday, a three-year-old girl died at a home on Danny Road at Lalor Park.
The toddler was found at about 8pm with a shot wound to her neck. Police have charged the girl's father, named by The Australian as Ali Mohammed Moussa, 43, with violating an apprehended violence order and several firearm offences.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that an illegal and unregistered single-barrel sawn-off shotgun was the weapon that caused the child's death.
Moussa will appear in court on Friday. He did not apply for bail when Blacktown Local Court heard his charges on Monday.