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9/22/2017 12:11:25 AM
Posted: 1/2/2006 5:44:02 AM EDT
Falling bullets hurt two at First Night celebration in Delray Beach

Falling bullets hurt two at First Night celebration in Delray Beach

By Patty Pensa
Staff Writer
Posted January 2 2006

Delray Beach · Gunshots fired into the air during New Year's revelry struck two people at the city's First Night celebration, rousing angry reactions from officials who plan an aggressive attack against what they consider a reckless holiday tradition.

About 15 minutes after stray bullets pierced a woman in the chest and hit a man on the head, police responding to the scene along Northwest First Avenue heard another bullet strike a parked car 4 feet away.

At the same time early Sunday, reports of shots fired on Southwest 11th Avenue led police to a group of men who fled after abandoning eight guns in an alley, said Officer Jeff Messer, spokesman for the Delray Beach Police Department.

The errant gunfire was most dramatic at this ninth annual celebration, which attracted an estimated 35,000 people downtown. In 1998, two people were grazed by stray bullets at the event, and in 2003 a bullet nicked a man's arm.

"This is absolutely outrageous behavior," Messer said. "It's, `Shoot it up in the air and it doesn't matter where it lands.' It does matter."

Police will push an informational campaign against such shootings prior to the Fourth of July, the next holiday when fireworks and random gunshots abound. The shots that struck the two victims before midnight likely were fired from outside the First Night celebration, Messer said. About 30 to 40 officers were on patrol for the holiday.

The first victim, Heather Leitch, 32, was sitting outside the Cabana El Rey restaurant with her mother and stepfather just before midnight when she felt the bullet slice through her skin, said her mother, Mary Valcoff, at the Delray Medical Center on Sunday afternoon.

"All of a sudden she starts screaming," said Valcoff, drained from a New Year's spent worrying if her oldest daughter would survive. "She said, `I think I've been shot. ... Oh my God, it hurts.' Blood was gushing."

The bullet missed Leitch's heart by less than an inch, doctors told Valcoff. It remains lodged in her breastbone, and doctors had not decided on surgery.

A bullet also struck Larry Cerullo, 45, of Long Beach, N.Y., but did not penetrate his skull. He was treated and released from Delray Medical Center.

Leitch had secured a job as an operations manager for a financial company and was planning to move into a condominium in the city today. Valcoff said she isn't sure what her daughter, who is completing a bachelor's degree at Regis University in Denver, will do.

"You don't have any trust in a community so tiny like Delray," Valcoff said.

Mayor Jeff Perlman was upset by the shooting.

"First Night is built around an expectation of a safe, family-oriented, alcohol-free alternative for people of all ages," Perlman said. "It's as wholesome as apple pie. To hear that we have people injured just makes your blood boil."

Because of the random violence, Perlman said he wouldn't leave his teenage daughter at the event for the midnight countdown anymore. But First Night will not be canceled, he said.

Preventing holiday gunshots might depend more on catching the perpetrators of last night's shootings, Perlman said.

"I don't know how you legislate against morons," he said. "Do you have to have a campaign to say, `Don't fire a gun in the air because it might come down?' I don't know what the answer is because I don't think you can't legislate against stupidity."

Police say solving the crimes could be difficult. That's why they want the community's help in reporting shots fired.

There is no established connection between the shots reported on Southwest 11th Avenue and the shooting victims on Northeast First Avenue, though Messer said a bullet shot into the air could fall that 1-mile distance.

After the shooters scattered from Southwest 11th Avenue at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, police recovered four assault rifles, two hunting rifles and two shotguns, Messer said. Police said they found Anthony Spells, 39, of Delray Beach, who owns the guns, but did not charge him.

"This is not the kind of way the city of Delray Beach wants to start the New Year," Messer said.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 5:51:11 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 5:55:14 AM EDT
Hundreds of rounds of ammo were shot into the air (I assume) in and around my neighborhood at the stroke of midnight There is a large hispanic population here. I understand that firing guns in the air is a New Year's eve tradition?

I was surprised at the number of private ownership guns in the area.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:16:45 AM EDT
When did New Year's Eve turn into "First Night"? hinking.gif
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:20:41 AM EDT
If they have the guns all they have to do is trace them to their legal owners.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:24:07 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:25:48 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:27:42 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/2/2006 6:28:08 AM EDT by Merrell]
Originally Posted By fight4yourrights:

reports of shots fired on Southwest 11th Avenue led police to a group of men who fled after abandoning eight guns in an alley,...

Link Posted: 1/2/2006 6:36:59 AM EDT
I had on my body armor and K-pot.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 7:00:20 AM EDT

Originally Posted By jeep44:
When did New Year's Eve turn into "First Night"?

I believe it is a trademarked term for a program of non-alcoholic family-oriented festivities that municipalities put on for New Years Eve. We have it up here also.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 7:17:00 AM EDT
When we shot on new years, we shot into the ground. Why people shoot into the air is above my comprehension level.
Link Posted: 1/2/2006 7:24:53 AM EDT
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