A three-year-old boy was shot and wounded in Phoenix and a 61-year-old woman was shot and killed in Houston as people celebrated the New Year, authorities said.
The toddler was hit by random gunfire in a backyard. The woman was killed by a stray bullet outside her home.
Though it was not immediately clear why the shots were fired in either case, shooting guns into the air to celebrate the new year and other holidays is a longstanding practice in some places.
In Arizona, the practice is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. The relevant law was passed in 1999, after a stray bullet killed a 14-year-old girl, Shannon Smith, in Phoenix.
Since then, police have knocked on doors to warn people about firing guns on holidays. They can also use a system called ShotSpotter, a system that pinpoints where a gun has been fired.
The three-year-old boy who was shot on Tuesday night was expected to survive the wound left by a bullet fragment, the Arizona Republic reported.
The Houston Chronicle reported that police and Harris county sheriff’s deputies issued public alerts on New Year’s Eve warning the public not to discharge their weapons while celebrating.
The Harris county sheriff’s office said Philippa Ashford died after being shot at 12.01am on the first day of 2020. It appeared she might have been struck by celebratory gunfire from outside her own neighborhood.
The sheriff’s office said Ashford’s family and their neighbors were discharging fireworks in their cul-de-sac when she called out that she had been shot. 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 sheriff, told the Chronicle.
Ashford’s body was sent for an autopsy and the sheriff’s department was asking anyone with information regarding her death to call.