Man accused of shooting 8-year-old cousin mistaken for skunk appears in court

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NEW SEWICKLEY TOWNSHIP, Pa. - The 24-year-old man who said he accidentally shot his 8-year-old cousin at a Halloween party in October faced a preliminary hearing Thursday.

Thomas Grant faced a hearing on reckless endangerment and assault charges in connection with the shooting. All charges were held for court.

Grant’s attorney, Steve Valsamidis, said Grant’s wife gave birth to their first child overnight and the entire family is devastated over the situation.

"Relatively speaking, he's OK. He's terribly upset about this situation, and his first concern is the 9-year-old girl," Valsamidis said. "She's recovering and, from my understanding, is good. He's a family guy and feels terrible about the accident."

Investigators said the girl, dressed in a black costume with a white tassel, was on a hillside near a home on Brewer Road in Beaver County when she was shot.

Police said the girl was playing hide-and-seek behind the Grant family's home when she was shot once with a 12-gauge shotgun.

Channel 11's Amy Marcinkiewicz reported that Grant turned himself in to New Sewickley police last week. Police said Grant agreed to meet officers at the district justice's office in Freedom.

Family members said they had recently been having problems with a skunk. The girl's mother said Grant fired a gun at what he thought was the skunk and accidentally shot the girl in the shoulder.

"There were reports of a skunk in the area. It was bothering the partygoers. He went and got a shotgun, using a flashlight, and shot something over the hill," said New Sewickley Police Chief Ron Leindecker.

The victim, who was hit in the shoulder, arm, back and neck, was flown to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she underwent surgery. She has been released from the hospital and is going through rehab.

"It's a shame. It's just horrible what happened," said neighbor James Brandleberger.

Grant posted bond and is out of jail.