Toddler girl in critical condition after being shot in head while playing on slide in her backyard

A 2-year-old Tennessee girl is in critical, life-threatening condition after a stray bullet hit her in the head as she played on a slide in her backyard last Friday.

ABC News reports that Ariel Salaices was in the backyard playing with her two older brothers at their Mountain City home when the bullet hit a metal pole, ricocheted, and landed in the back of the girl’s head. Ariel  began running toward her father afterward but collapsed after around 20 feet.

The girl’s father grabbed her, loaded her in his vehicle and sped to a Johnson County EMS unit. She was then airlifted to the Johnson City Medical Center and later taken to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville, where she remains in critical condition.

How do you protect your children from predators? Join Nancy Grace and a team of world-class experts for the online course ‘Justice Nation: Crime Stops Here’.

The bullet was still lodged in the back of Ariel’s head when she arrived at the hospital, according to the family’s GoFundMe page, which had already caused extensive damage after severing an artery. She had emergency surgery to remove a piece of her skull, which lessened pressure on her brain. By midweek, however, the bullet had moved from the back of the girl’s brain to the front and her condition worsened.

Meanwhile, Johnson County authorities are concentrating on finding the person responsible for the shooting. Although a gun range is nearby, investigators said the shot likely didn’t come from there.

“I just have to say that even if it was an accident, I know they have to know what happened. It’s been all over the news. They really need to come forward,” Ariel’s aunt, Stephanie Brown, said.

Sheriff Edward Tester said that while there is no law against shooting a firearm in the county, shooting around homes and being careless can end up hurting and even killing others, according to ABC 7.

“If you’re using a firearm and doing target practice or hunting, make sure you’re looking beyond where you’re shooting,” Tester added. “Because that bullet may not stop where you want it to.”

Anyone with any information is urged to contact Johnson County police at 423-727-7761.

Join Nancy Grace for her new video series new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most – your children.

[Feature Photo: Ariel Salaices/GoFundMe, Handout]