Scott Deel was spending the holiday at Busch Gardens about 10 p.m. July 4, 2018, when pain seared through his left shoulder. He headed for the amusement park’s first aid center after his wife noticed blood soaking his shirt. His injury came from a falling bullet.
Though it might sound like a fluke, Deel’s story is far from unique.
It seems like every year a new round of reports trickle in about people injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. More often than not, they crop up over the holidays, like New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July, but they can happen whenever someone decides fireworks just aren’t cutting it anymore.
In January 2013, an 8-year-old boy was ringing in the New Year with family on the Southbank near the Main Street Bridge when he mentioned that his foot hurt. On closer inspection, his father found a bullet in his son’s shoe, police said. The child was taken to UF Health Jacksonville with a minor injury.
The same night, a local pilot and his girlfriend were flying his plane near the Mathews Bridge downtown when they heard a loud pop and noticed a bullet hole in the window. The next thing the pilot knew, blood was streaming down his neck. He landed safely despite being shot in the back of the head.
In each of those cases, the victim survived. Yet the consequences could have been deadly.
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, bullets returning to the ground can reach speeds faster than 200 feet per second, or enough force to pierce someone’s skull and kill. The same CDC report found the majority of celebratory gunfire injuries are to the chest, head or shoulders.
“That bullet, when it goes up into the air, it’s going to have to come down somewhere,” said News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson. “It could come down on an object, a person or it could come down on you and injure you or even kill you. So it’s not a good idea at all.”
Jefferson said he can’t count the number of times during his tenure with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that he answered a call about shots fired only to find out celebratory gunfire was to blame. Even if people aren't hurt or scared, he said, it wastes officers’ time when they’re already stretched thin.
Since it’s illegal, you could also face criminal charges even if you don’t hit anyone.
“You can be charged with shooting deadly missiles or reckless use of a firearm,” he said. “You’re still responsible for what happens when you pull the trigger. If you wind up hitting and killing someone with that weapon, even if it’s not intentional, you can be charged with manslaughter.”
The bottom line? Leave your weapons in their holsters.