A loaded gun found near a playground Sunday morning by three young girls was stolen from a car and fired several times, South Portland police said Monday.

Police believe the Taurus 5-shot revolver had been fired because it contained two spent shells and three live rounds when it was found near a playground close to the Redbank Community Center. It was later reported stolen from a car parked in the area, police said.

Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, police received a call from a woman reporting that her 9-year-old granddaughter and two friends found a gun while they were outside playing. The three children – the 9-year-old from Windham and two other girls ages 8 and 10 – discovered the gun on the ground near a construction pallet, according to police.

Sgt. Todd Barlow said the 8-year-old thought the gun was a toy and picked it up, but the 9-year-old thought it might be real.

“They got nervous and went home and told the grandmother,” Barlow said.

The grandmother, whose name was not released by police, brought the gun back to her apartment, where she called police.

Barlow said the department had received two calls around 2 a.m. reporting either gunshots or fireworks in the same area, but responding officers did not locate anything suspicious. After the gun was found, police checked with local hospitals to see if anyone had come in with injuries and searched for property damage, he said. No one appeared to be injured and no damage was found.

Later Sunday, police received a call from a person in the neighborhood whose car was broken into and a gun stolen. Police determined the missing gun was the same one found near the playground. The gun will be returned to the owner.

Barlow praised the 9-year-old girl for recognizing the gun could be dangerous and notifying an adult.

“The girl who recognized the danger is wise beyond her years,” he said. “If shots were fired, this is a heavily populated area with a lot of families. It’s incredibly dangerous.”

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

[email protected]