COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Police expect a lot of gunfire this New Year’s Eve evening.
It’s dangerous and illegal, but celebratory gunfire is a tradition for many and is expected for New Year’s 2020.
Deputy Chief Richard Bash said the volume of shots fired right around midnight makes it unsafe for anyone, including police officers, to be outside and exposed to falling projectiles.
Last year, Columbus police fielded more than 700 reports of shots fired. In the Linden area, a man was arrested and charged with felonious assault, accused of shooting his neighbor with celebratory gunfire.
“We don’t know the extent of the damage that all these projectiles do, but we know that with thousands of pieces of lead going into the air, they eventually have to come down,” Bash said. “We’ve been very fortunate that we have not had a lot of fatalities but, again, that fortune can’t continue forever.”
Debbie Kuskowski was standing in the front yard of a relative’s home in Bexley when she was struck by celebratory gunfire shortly after midnight last New Year’s.
“All of a sudden, I felt a little twinge in my back, a little sting,” Kuskowski said. “I reached back there and I put my hand up under my shirt and pulled it out and my hand was completely covered in blood.”
The bullet lodged in her back.
“It didn’t hit any of my organs, it didn’t fracture my rib or hit any arteries, so I was very, very, very, very blessed that there was no internal damage,” Kuskowski said.
Kuskowski said police found no sign of where the shot came from or who was responsible.
This will be the first New Year’s Eve in Columbus with ShotSpotter technology in place. The gunshot detection system can pinpoint addresses where gunfire is coming from.
“What we will get is the address, and we will have the recording, which will allow us to follow up in the days ahead to determine whether we have any neighborhood safety cameras in the area or any doorbell cameras in the area to allow us to follow up with those individuals who were firing randomly into the air,” Bash said.
“We probably won’t get you tonight when you step out of your house and you pop off a few rounds. It’s very likely that we might stop at your house the next couple of days and talk to you about what we have on video when you’re shooting up in the air.”
Kuskowski said she’s grateful to be able to celebrate another New Year. But, she says, this time she will stay inside.
“I can’t stay angry,” Kuskowski said. “Life is too short. You know, God gave me more life to live and I’m going to live each day to the fullest and hopefully educate people that it’s ok to celebrate, but I hope they hesitate before they celebrate and don’t use any guns.”
A 9-year-old boy in Cleveland was wounded by a stray bullet last New Year’s Eve as he watched television inside his family’s home. The boy’s mother declined to be interviewed. Another 9-year-old boy in Atlanta was shot in the abdomen by celebratory gunfire early Jan. 1 while he and his family set off fireworks.
Police even warn people not to be outside around midnight.
“After about 11:30, have a roof over the top of your head in some way, shape, or form, or if you’re in your vehicle, stay in your vehicle,” said Commander Christopher Bowling with the Columbus Division of Police. “I wouldn’t come outside unless you really need to.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.