HPD to deploy teams to arrest people doing celebratory gunfire

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Thursday, December 31, 2020
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Authorities are warning about the dangers of celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve as this time marks one year since a beloved matriarch was killed due to a falling bullet.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Police departments, including Houston, and members of law enforcement are warning about celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo wrote that his department will be deploying teams to arrest anyone who engages in celebratory gunfire.

"Please do not risk seriously wounding or killing someone by engaging in this reckless behavior," Acevedo said.

But Acevedo wasn't the only trying to spread the word about the dangers of celebratory gunfire.

The Dallas Police Department said committing the offense could mean a fine of up to $4,000 and a year in jail. In some cases, the charge of deadly conduct means up to a $10,000 fine and possible jail time from two to 10 years.

You're asked to call 911 if you see something.

Sadly, the urgent warning isn't often heeded.

In January 2020, 61-year-old nurse Philippa Ashford, also known as "Phil," was celebrating the new year with her family when she was shot and killed by celebratory gunfire as she stood outside her son's home in the Laurel Oaks subdivision.

Despite a thorough search, investigators did not find any shell casings in the subdivision that could lead to the shooter. It's believed Ashford was hit by celebratory gunfire from outside of the neighborhood.

Ashford was a nurse manager at The Menninger Clinic, a mental health and addiction treatment facility. She was also an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Colleagues remember Ashford as a leader and mentor to the psychiatric nursing and clinical team.

Exactly one year after her death, Ashford's family is hoping for new information that could lead investigators to the source of the gunfire.

Anyone with information regarding Ashford's death is asked to contact the Harris County Sheriff's Office Homicide Division at 713-274-9100 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

In 2017, state representative Armando "Mando" Martinez of Hidalgo County was injured by celebratory gunfire.

According to the City of Houston, there is no Texas law that specifically addresses celebratory gunfire. The state has laws addressing deadly conduct and reckless discharge.

After the shooting, Martinez filed House Bill 86, which would have criminalized celebratory gunfire. HB 86 would have made it a Class A misdemeanor "to discharge a weapon without an intended target and would have made it a first-degree felony if the gunfire resulted in serious bodily injury or death."

The bill was successfully voted out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. It died when it didn't pass out of House Calendars.

SEE ALSO: How possible celebratory gunfire killing could be solved