FORT MILL -- When Rock Hill's Belinda Ramsey took her daughter Emily to the large indoor playground at Plaza Fiesta, she hoped the girl would find some fun.
What Emiily found instead was a loaded gun.
The Sept. 13 incident has turned Emily, 8, into something of a local hero. The quick-thinking girl immediately got the attention of a mall employee who confiscated the weapon. Because of her actions, Emily was honored by York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant at a ceremony Thursday at the Carowinds-area mall at U.S. 21 and Interstate 77.
"I did not know if it was a real gun, but my mom taught me not to touch a gun," said Emily, a second-grader at Rosewood Elementary.
If Emily, who received a special plaque from the sheriff's office, hadn't acted properly, another child might have played with the gun, Bryant said.
"Emily made the right decision and prevented injuries or even a tragedy at the playground," Bryant said. "Emily is a symbol to other kids to make the right choice for safety."
The gun belonged to Anthony Ward Roberts of Lancaster, who had a permit for it but was arrested and charged with trespassing because the playground area is marked with several signs that say weapons are prohibited. Roberts told police he didn't realize he had lost the gun while on his hands and knees picking up his own child. His case is pending.
"We certainly thank Emily for her thoughtfulness," said Roel Lopez, a member of the Plaza Fiesta management team who presented the girl with a $400 mall gift check, a large teddy bear and the promise of a party for her and her friends and classmates.
Bryant emphasized the need for gun owners to keep their weapons secure. To help gun owners secure their weapons at home, Diane Woods of Professional Insurance Consulting has a limited supply of gun locks she is giving away. For information, call 802-5585 or stop by the office at 2000 S.C. 160 West, Fort Mill.