The Danger of New Year's Eve Gunfire

ByABC News
December 31, 2000, 9:00 AM

Dec. 31 -- Brian Perez was playing in the front yard of his south central Los Angeles home in 1999 while his parents roasted hot dogs and corn during a Fourth of July barbecue when a bullet dropped from the sky and pieced his head, fatally injuring the 9-year-old boy.

It sounds like a freak accident, but Brian is not alone. Every year dozens of people die or are injured throughout the country from stray bullets fired into the air during Independence Day and New Years Eve celebrations.

Last year a boy was injured in Los Angeles when a bullet grazed his skull on New Years Eve.

In Kansas City, Mo., a man was killed last year by a falling bullet from someone elses weapon, moments after he fired his own gun into the air. And in New Orleans, after the sound of gunshots echoed around the city , five people were wounded.

This year, like many other departments throughout the country, Los Angeles and Miami, New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit are mounting public awareness campaigns to educate people on the dangers of shooting into the air.

People that are shooting, they dont think they are out to kill anyone but they do, said Sgt. John Pasquariello, spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

The Long Path of a Stray Bullet

A bullet fired into the air can climb two miles and remain in flight for more than a minute, police said.

As it falls, the bullet reaches a velocity of 300 to 700 feet-per-second. A velocity of only 200 feet per second is sufficient to penetrate the human skull.

A special team of about 300 specially trained officers will patrol traditionally busy areas in Los Angeles looking or responding to people who fire off their guns.

In Los Angeles, officers say the campaign that began back in 1989 is finally starting to make a difference.

Last New Years Eve the Los Angeles police department received 580 calls complaining about indiscriminate firing thats 65 fewer than in 1999 when the number reached 645 and more than 200 better than than the 788 recorded in 1992.