All of the other children present are believed to be younger than the 7-year-old victim.
Their young ages and the gravity of what happened raise significant considerations, including legal ones, Snohomish County sheriff's Lt. Rob Palmer said Tuesday.
According to state law, "children under the age of eight years are incapable of committing crime."
Jenna Carlile, 7, and the other children were alone in the family van when one of her siblings reportedly found a loaded handgun and fired it. Jenna was struck and later died from her injuries.
Investigators believe the girl's parents, Marysville police officer Derek Carlile and his wife, had parked their van near a friend's art gallery Saturday afternoon.
Their children were in the van, and the parents were outside talking with their friend when the shooting occurred.
The couple, who live on Camano Island, had four children. Police won't say how many of the children were in the van at the time of the shooting.
Detectives are being careful about releasing additional information until they figure out exactly what happened in the van, Palmer said.
"Because there are still things to figure out, and because we're dealing with children, the interview process has to be set up in a very special way," he said.
Detectives investigating cases involving children who have experienced trauma usually bring in experts trained in special techniques that get at truth in ways that are appropriate for young minds.
Investigators repeatedly have declined to release the specific ages and genders of the other children in the van. The sheriff's office rarely releases information about juveniles, Palmer said.
"In this case, because it is likely a juvenile, a young child, involved in this, there is an additional level of sensitivity to age, gender, certainly name, that kind of thing, as well as the considerations for the emotional state of the family at this point," he said.
How much the investigation is focusing on the actions of Jenna's parents remained unclear on Tuesday.
The laws governing unattended firearms in vehicles are complex, and they can differ for commissioned police officers. In Washington, there is no specific law regarding potential criminal penalties for adults who make it possible for children to get their hands on guns.
Fatal shootings almost always require thorough, lengthy investigation, Palmer said. In this instance, the ages of the children present is a critical issue, but not the only one.
"That's one of the factors that we have to consider in this whole investigation," he said.
Through Marysville police, the Carliles have asked for privacy. They've released no information about public memorials for Jenna.
Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith on Monday asked the community for compassion and patience. He described Derek Carlile as an excellent officer who will remain on paid administrative leave while the sheriff's office investigates. The police department also expects to conduct an internal investigation to determine whether any policies were violated, the chief said.
Investigators haven't said if the gun used in the shooting was the officer's duty weapon or a privately owned firearm. However, police rarely release details about a weapon in the early days after any shooting.
In most fatal shootings, it is ultimately up to prosecutors to review the evidence to decide if charges are warranted.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
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