When Belinda Ramsey took her daughter Emily to the large indoor playground at Plaza Fiesta, she was hoping the girl would find some fun. What 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, of Rock Hill, was honored by York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant at a ceremony held Thursday at the mall, located just off Carowinds Boulevard.
"I did not know if it was a real gun, but my mom taught me not to touch a gun," Emily, a second grader at Rosewood Elementary, said Thursday.
"We come to play about twice a month and there were a lot of kids here that day," her mom said.
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If Emily, who received a special plaque from the sheriff's office, hadn't acted properly, another child may 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 realized he had lost the gun while on his hands and knees picking up his own child. His case is still 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 gift check for shopping at the mall, 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 more information, call 802-5585 or stop by the office at 2000 Hwy. 160 West, Fort Mill.