An Arizona man was arrested on Nov. 1 after allegedly leaving his 5-year-old granddaughter alone in the desert with nothing but a loaded pistol. He reportedly told her to shoot any "bad guys" before heading out.
Paul Rater, 53, left his house on the night of Nov. 1 with his granddaughter so they could ride around the desert in his new pick-up truck, according to KPHO. The girl was reported missing four hours later.
According to records, the pair ended up on foot, but it's unclear what happened to the truck, The Arizona Republic reports.
The girl was eventually located by her grandmother, an off-duty firefighter and others, who organized a search party in the desert and scoured it via ATV. They were able to locate the girl after hearing a child's voice respond to people calling her name. She was holding the pistol when she was found.
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The girl was reunited with her mother at approximately 7:15 p.m.
The .45-caliber handgun that the child was holding had been cocked into a ready-to-fire position.
Rater told Maricopa County deputies that he gave his young granddaughter a loaded gun and left her under a tree because she complained to him that she couldn't walk anymore.
He said his vehicle got stuck and the pair had to walk for help as he had left his cellphone at home, KPHO reports.
"While he was looking for help, he came across multiple people and never thought he should call 911," deputies wrote in a probable-cause statement, according to The Arizona Republic. "He said he did ask the people to look for his granddaughter because he left her in the desert."
Rater reportedly arrived at the South Buckeye Equestrian Center at around 5:30 p.m. Employees said Rater complained about walking in the desert for 10 miles, but never once mentioned his granddaughter.
"I don't know why papa left me," the girl reportedly told her grandmother. "He took me by some bushes, gave me a gun and left me."
Rater was later booked on charges of reckless child abuse and endangerment.