Durham police warn against celebratory gunfire 1 year following woman’s July Fourth death

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN)– On July 4, 2020, 74-year-old Paulette Thorpe was sitting on a porch visiting friends when she was killed by celebratory gunfire.

It happened at a house on Burlington Avenue. Durham police said they believe the killing was the result of celebratory gunfire.

Thorpe was celebrating with family and friends around 11 p.m. when she was struck by a stray bullet in the chest. She was taken to the hospital where she later died.

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Authorities believe this was the result of celebratory gunfire because of the direction where the bullet came from.

“The projectile did follow a downward path through Ms. Thorpe’s torso and so that indicates the bullet came down from above instead of being directly fired at her,” said investigator Adam Bongarten with the Durham Police Department’s Homicide Unit said last year.

As the one year anniversary of her death approaches, the Durham Police Department is reminding people the potentially fatal consequences of celebratory gunfire in a new PSA.‘She has already forgiven you’: Family wants answers after Durham woman killed by celebratory gunfire 

“The Thorpe family worked closely with our department to produce the PSA,” says Lt. G.L. Minor of the Public Affairs Unit. “The goal was to create a compelling promotion that would honor Mrs. Thorpe’s life and cause community members to stop and think about the possible consequences of their actions.” 

Minor adds that bullets shot in the air can also cause serious harm to pets and damage cars and homes.

“In Durham, anyone caught firing a gun into the air could be charged with a CLASS 3 misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $500,” says Minor.Durham shooting numbers in summer 2020 are twice as high as last year 

The Durham Police Department released a list of how to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday safely:

  • Follow Motor Vehicle Laws. Do NOT drink and drive. If you do drink, use a designated driver, call a cab, use a rideshare option, phone a friend or walk. Always watch out for pedestrians and observe the speed limit. 
  • Know How Fireworks Work. If you purchase consumer fireworks for personal entertainment, be sure that the fireworks are legal. Without exception, always read fireworks instructions carefully. Fireworks that explode are illegal in North Carolina.  
  • According to a Durham noise ordinance, from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., the sound level should not be louder than 50 decibels. Experts say that compares to a quiet conversation at home.  
  • The sound of fireworks often frightens pets. Don’t leave pets leashed, fenced or chained up outside during fireworks displays. They may become disoriented, escape and get lost.
  • Follow City’s Latest COVID-19 Guidelines. Learn about the most recent guidelines residents are asked to follow to stem the resurgence of COVID-19 in the community. Visit the City’s COVID-19 Resource Page – https://durhamnc.gov/4013/City-of-Durham-COVID-19-Updates-Resource
  • In Case of Emergency Call 911. Residents are reminded to always call 911 in these instances:  sounds of gun shots; fire emergency; immediate or potential threat to life or property; medical emergency; other actual or perceived emergency; suspicious persons, vehicles or activity; any type of fight or disturbance; vehicle accident; and/or when a child or pet is locked in a vehicle. 
  • Residents should use Durham’s non-emergency number (919) 560-4600. Durham’s non-emergency number frees up 911 lines for non-life threatening emergencies. Examples include barking dogs, loud music, burglaries that occurred hours or days earlier (not in progress) and vandalism to public or private property.

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