A 74-year-old woman was killed by a stray bullet while revellers were firing their guns in the air nearby on U.S. Independence Day, according to police in Durham, N.C.
The fatal shooting happened around 11 p.m. on the night of July 4, police told Fox 8. The victim, Paulette Thorpe, was rushed to hospital, where she later died.
“Last night as people throughout Durham peacefully celebrated the July 4th holiday with their friends and family, a small few chose to put our community at risk by carelessly firing guns into the air,” Durham police Chief Cerelyn J. Davis said in a statement.
“This reckless behaviour led to the tragic death of Ms. Paulette Thorpe. Ms. Thorpe’s death reminds us that we as a community must work together to prevent these senseless acts, so that no family suffers such a tragedy ever again.”
Witness Michael Peaks said the shot came out of nowhere.
“I was talking to her, we were all conversating, when all of a sudden out of nowhere, something came out and hit her kind of in the chest,” he told CBS 17. “We thought it was a bug or something. She jumped and said, ‘Damn, something just bit me.'”
Neighbours told the station that “Miss Pauline” was a lovely person.
She added that the gunfire may have come from a nearby park.
“It’s senseless. You don’t be shooting up in the air, because you know bullets don’t have no names on them,” she said.
The incident occurred just a few hours after police warned locals not to shoot their guns in the air.
“Celebratory gunfire is a crime,” the Durham Police Department wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday. The post warns that anyone caught firing a gun in the air will face a fine of up to $500.
“Bullets fired in the air can travel a long distance,” they explain in the post. “And, what goes up, more often than not, must come down … and sometimes has fatal consequences for people and pets.”
Police are appealing to the public for help in the case.