CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The countdown to the new year has officially started! Time is winding down with only two days left, however police are urging people to put down the guns and stop celebratory gunfire.
Firing a gun into the air is illegal in the state of Virginia and if someone is hurt in the process, it’s considered a felony.
As many Virginians get ready to ring in the new year, it’s important to revisit the dangers of celebratory gunfire. New Year’s Eve is traditionally celebrated with fireworks and social gatherings, but some choose to celebrate illegally by shooting off rounds into the air.
Chesterfield County Police Captain Michael Breeden says there’s an uptick in gunfire on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, proving to be deadly.
“What goes up–must come down,” Captain Breeden said.”Unfortunately, it happened here.”
Before pulling the trigger, think about Brendon Mackey. On July 4, 2013, the 7-year-old was walking near the Boathouse in Brandermill with his father to watch fireworks when a stray bullet struck the top of his head, killing him instantly. Chesterfield County Police believe Mackey’s death was the result of celebratory gunfire.
“I can’t imagine as a parent just a tragedy,” Captain Breeden said. “After that, we enhanced the law to where you could be charged with a felony if celebratory gunfire resulted in injury or unfortunately someone died.”
The tragic case is unsolved, but still active. However, years after the 7-year-old’s death in Chesterfield, folks are still firing off. Brandon Brooks, Operations Manager at Cross Timbers Roofing, holds onto stray bullets collected in the Richmond-Metro area.
“What we have found over the years is occasionally we run into this–and that is bullet holes in the roof,” Brooks said.
As Brooks verbalized that statement, he poured out the collection of bullets on a table.
Brooks manages the residential division of Cross Timbers Roofing and says his team is often called out to service ‘leaky roofs’. However, upon further inspection sometimes the culprit of the leak is a bullet lodged into the structure, which Brooks calls alarming.
“When we find one of these (bullets) it’s never laying on the roof,” Brooks said. “We find it upside down on the roof. The beauty of your roof is that it protects you from the elements. Well, it also protected a family from a bullet, so us finding it in the roof–yes that might be a good thing that day, but what if it didn’t hit a roof on the way down.”
According to Chesterfield Police records, the department has received 220 calls for fireworks and 57 for gunfire on New Year’s Eve over the last five years.
If you hear gunfire, you’re encouraged to report it to police. If someone is hurt, call 911, but if not then officials ask you to call your city or county’s non-emergency police number.