(INSIDE EDITION) - The family of the 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl who was fatally shot by a local police officer trying to serve an eviction notice said they place all blame for the tragedy on the child’s father, a relative told INSIDE EDITION.
Ciara Meyer was hiding behind her dad when he pointed a loaded semi-automatic rifle that was slung around his neck at Constable Clarke Steele’s chest, officials said. The officer was making what was the final of many visits to the apartment in Penn Township at 10 a.m. on January 11.
Steele fired his gun and shot 57-year-old Donald Meyer in the arm, but the bullet continued on and struck Ciara in the chest.
The young girl’s death has shattered her loved ones, who want to see her father brought to justice.
“The family completely blames Don for all of this,” Hope Cordas Rohde, who considers Ciara her niece through marriage, told IE on Friday. “We are devastated. He took away a big piece of us. How do you go on? How do you move on from here? Because CeCe is never going to be here again.”
The eviction came as no surprise to the Meyers, who police and Rohde said had been notified that Monday would be their last day in the apartment.
“This was the final visit. This was going to be the actual eviction,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Rob Hicks told IE, saying law enforcement officials had “physically handed Mr. Meyer the paper work telling him about the eviction."
Meyer had been given notice that “they were coming that day… for the final eviction. If they (the family) weren’t gone by that point, they would be removed,” Hicks said.
After several unsuccessful attempts to get the family to pay $1,780.85 in back rent and court costs, the Meyers were finally being made to leave. Their apartment was ordered possessed on December 30.
Rohde said Meyer had refused to pay rent because there were broken utilities in the home.
“The constable was there the day before to remind them that the next day was the day they had to be out,” Rohde said. “Don had an arsenal of weapons and he had them ready. He wasn’t going to pay.”
After the shooting, Meyer was flown to a nearby hospital for treatment. He has been charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, terroristic threats and reckless endangerment.
Meyer was scheduled to enter a plea on January 28 in Dauphin County court on charges of DUI and resisting arrest from January 2015, Penn Live reported.
Authorities have said that Steele did not intentionally shoot Ciara. The Perry County district attorney is reviewing the shooting.
“We feel so sorry for the constable; he is going through a very rough time,” Rohde said, noting that the family had spoken with him. “He couldn’t even talk on the phone today.”
Hicks also said Steele was shaken up, saying: “He’s very upset by it. We’re trying to do the best we can to get him the help he needs to get through this.”
But Rodhe said Steele did nothing wrong, noting: “The constable was defending his life. He didn’t know CeCe was back there. We blame who is responsible; Don, not him.”
Ciara’s death has left her mother—who is the sister of Rohde’s brother-in-law– inconsolable.
“She cries every other minute; she says she doesn’t know how she’s going to go on,” Rohde said. “She feels like she’s finally free from Don, but at what cost?
“CeCe, she lit up a room when she walked in. She was a remarkable little girl. She had a beautiful smile. I never heard Ciara complain or speak about anything negatively. She was full of energy, full of smiles. And now she’s gone.”
Ciara’s funeral will be held on Saturday at Jesse Geigle Funeral Home in Harrisburg, she said.
The family created a GoFundMe page to offset funeral costs and to raise money dedicated to creating Ciara’s Fund Against Domestic Violence.
“We intend that she be remembered forever and (make) her death have some meaning. We hope to expand this and take Ciara's fund nationwide, fighting domestic violence and helping the victims,” the page notes.
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