By Tamas Mondovics
Despite the tireless effort of urging residents to refrain from celebratory gunfire, bullets were falling from the sky in Hillsborough County during the recent Fourth of July holiday, one hitting a man while another fell through the roof of one Tampa area resident, coming to a stop after being lodged in a coffee table.
The first bullet hit 38-year-old Robert Anthony Turner in the face and neck, causing some cuts to his neck and eyebrow.
The second stray bullet did not hurt anyone, but the two separate incidents reported by the Sheriff’s office were only the ones noticed and reported, making residents wonder as to just how many more stray bullets were flying around town.
What is clear, however, is that the message to stop shooting guns in the air as a way to celebrate is nowhere near done.
Such a message is being promoted by the family of Ruskin teen, Diego Duran, who was struck by a stray bullet while watching fireworks with his mom Sandy outside the family’s home on New Year’s Day.
It has been a year and a half since the accident and while Diego miraculously survived the ordeal, he spent months in the hospital with severe injuries to his head and brain.
According to his mom, Diego’s memory sometimes falters. He has a shunt to drain fluid from his brain as well as a constricted artery, but he has stayed on track with his education and continues to show great improvement with his short-term memory as he still enjoys his favorite pass time: skateboarding.
While the emotional pain and the physical effects of that horrifying night fade into the past, the memory of it not only remains, but is also promoted by the family, led by Sandy. She is the founder of the non-profit organization, ‘Bullet Free Sky’, who tirelessly promotes the now well-known campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.
“Diego and I are on a mission to raise awareness and educate the public about a problem that is 100 percent preventable,” Sandy said. “It seems like repetition is a must to get the word out when there are so many people still practicing celebratory gunfire.”
Sandy was referring to the recent incident of Brandon Reid, a teen who was also struck in the head while in his own living room. Reid is recovering from his injuries, but authorities believe that the teen was hit by a bullet as a result of celebratory gunfire.
To continue to spread the word and to raise funds to support the cause, Sandy and Diego held a press conference as well as the organization’s first Awareness/Fundraiser Event on July 3, a day before the Fourth of July holiday, known to be celebrated by fireworks and, by some, with celebratory gunfire, either out of habit or tradition.
“Our continued message is to ask residents not to use firearms to celebrate,” Sandy said. “We are not an anti-gun organization, but pro-gun safety.”
The Diego family is thankful for the assistance of the community, the press and all those that help to spread the news and support the cause.
Bullet Free Sky is now seeking volunteers for their Fundraiser Event Committee. Anyone interested may call 285-3663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit www.bulletfreesky.org.