BRADENTON, Fla. - Law enforcement officials are once again reiterating for residents to avoid celebratory gunfire when the clock strikes midnight signaling the new year -- because what goes up, must come down.
"People can be seriously injured and even killed," Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells explained to FOX 13. "It’s just really a reckless way to celebrate the new year, and we need to stop."
Even if no one is injured, the sheriff said they receive plenty of phone calls over the years about bullets entering homes or landing on roofs.
"I think common sense needs to come into play. I know that doesn't always happen, but people need to understand you can take a life," Sheriff Wells said. "You can destroy a family by going outside and shooting your firearm up in the arm. It’s just not worth it."
Those stray bullets often hit unsuspecting targets and change their lives forever. The Tampa Bay area has seen more than its share of celebratory gunfire mishaps. Samuel Rotker, a Tampa teacher, got hit on the Fourth of July one year.
"I was just like a ton of bricks from above. Bam! I was instantly thrown to the ground," he recalled.
The bullet barely missed his artery.
In 2012, just minutes into the New Year, 12-year-old Diego Duran was hit in the head by a stray bullet.
"It's been a very bumpy ride, we've had a lot of ups and downs with his surgeries and procedures," said Sandy Duran, Diego's mother, during a 2012 interview with FOX 13.
In 2018, a man celebrating the New Year at a local St. Pete bar was hit in the groin by a bullet authorities believe was likely shot from miles away.
"If you have to tell people that if you shoot a gun up into the air the bullet has to come down somewhere," said Dan Casper, a friend of the victim hit in the 2018 mishap. "I mean if you're not smart enough to figure that out then you shouldn't own a gun to begin with."