Texas Woman Celebrating New Year Killed by Stray Bullet

The Associated Press
By The Associated Press
January 2, 2020US News
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Texas Woman Celebrating New Year Killed by Stray Bullet
Phillipa Ashford, who authorities say was fatally shot by a stray bullet outside her Houston home as she rang in the New Year on Jan. 1, 2020. (Michael Hart/The Menninger Clinic via AP)

HOUSTON—Authorities say a woman ringing in the new year was fatally shot by a stray bullet outside her Houston home.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said 61-year-old Philippa Ashford died after being shot at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The sheriff’s department said it appears she may have been struck by celebratory gunfire from outside her immediate neighborhood.

The woman’s family and their neighbors were discharging fireworks in their cul-de-sac when she called out that she had been shot, according to the department. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We have no indication that any family member or anybody in the cul-de-sac was discharging a firearm and we’ve walked the streets and canvassed up and down to see if we can find any shell casings in the neighborhood and are not finding anything,” Sgt. Ben Beall, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, told the Houston Chronicle.

The Menninger Clinic, a Houston facility that treats mental illness, said in a statement that Ashford was a nurse manager there, serving as a leader and mentor to their nursing and clinical team.

Her body has been sent for an autopsy and the sheriff’s department is asking anyone with information regarding her death to call it.

The Chronicle reports that Houston police and Harris County deputies issued public alerts on New Year’s Eve warning the public not to discharge their weapons while celebrating.

The Menninger Clinic said it will hold a memorial service for Ashford and will provide grief counseling to those impacted by her death.

Celebratory Gunfire on New Year’s Eve

Although rare, people being shot by celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve and other holidays like the Fourth of July does happen, prompting law enforcement authorities to caution people that bullets fired into the air can endanger people’s lives.

“Our message has always been not to do it because it’s dangerous and illegal in our city,” police Lt. Mario Campos said. “Bullets can travel a long distance. Any gunfire discharged into the air has to come down and land on something.”

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 January 2019, while he and his family set off fireworks.

A 4-year-old boy was killed in 2010 in Decatur, Georgia, when an AK-47 round penetrated a church roof and struck him in the head as he sat next to his parents during a New Year’s Eve service.

A 2004 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people struck by gunfire shot into the air are most likely to be hit in the head.

By Mark Gillispie

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