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Suspected New Year's Eve celebratory gunfire injures St. Petersburg woman, Jacksonville boy

1:37 PM, Jan 1, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Woman hit by falling bullet during New Year's celebration

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Despite pleas in the days leading up to New Year's for people not to fire guns in the air in celebration, two people in Florida were hospitalized after they were hit by falling bullets.

In St. Petersburg, police say 67-year-old Laurie Eileen Eberhardt was sitting on a patio at the St. Pete Yacht Club watching the fireworks when a bullet struck her hand at about 12:08 a.m.

She was taken to Bayfront Medical Center where ER staff removed the bullet, which was lodged in her right wrist, near the base of her pinky. None of Eberhardt's bones were broken, and she has since been released from the hospital.

Investigators say the bullet appears to be a large caliber rifle round. No one at the Yacht Club saw anyone with a gun or heard any gunfire, and it appears the bullet was falling from the sky when it hit Eberhardt. It's possible the shooter fired the gun miles from where the bullet landed.

Over in Jacksonville, an 8-year-old boy was hit in the foot by a falling bullet shortly before midnight, the Florida Times-Union reports

The boy's father found the bullet in the child's shoe and took him to the hospital, where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

See Also: Could "ShotSpotter" help stop celebratory gunfire?

Richard Smeraldo and 13-year-old Diego Duran were leading an awareness campaign in the Bay area called "Bullet Free Sky," encouraging people to put their guns away on New Year's Eve. Both were injured by stray bullets from celebratory gunfire last year.

"What they [victims of celebratory gunfire] have been through is very tragic," Duran said before New Year's. "It's the consequence of a very irresponsible act that we stand here together to prevent."

In Florida, knowingly firing a gun in a public place is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

St. Petersburg Police say that for them to catch the shooter, they need to hear from anyone who saw anything.  If you have any information, call 727-893-7780.

If you have any information about the Jacksonville shooting, you are asked to contact the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or via email at JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org.

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