Recent UNC grad hit by celebratory gunshot warns of July 4th dangers

North Carolina


As the Fourth of July approaches, a Wake County woman is warning about the danger of celebrating the holiday by shooting bullets into the air.

Kaitlin Kong, 22, remembers everything about New Year’s 2019, the night she was hit by a bullet — police say — from celebratory gunfire.  

“I was in Downtown Raleigh. I was 50 feet from the acorn. I was surrounded by thousands of people,” Kong said. “So it kind of went through my mind, ‘that’s really crazy.’ Unbelievable, I guess.”

Kong was one of thousands ringing in the New Year at First Night Raleigh for the annual acorn drop. 

“I’m really glad it was me because if it has been the baby that was two people in front of me, or the old man and woman that was next to me, I don’t think they would have been able to handle it as well. I’m a young, healthy adult,” said Kong.

Kong and her roommate were at the intersection of Fayetteville and Davie Streets around 12:05 a.m. as the celebration was wrapping up. She says she felt a sharp pain, noticed a hole in her shirt, and blood.

“It just felt like somebody had either hit me with a baseball or a softball or punched me in the rib,” she said.

Kong says her roommate and other people in the crowd helped her keep pressure on the wound. She says she wasn’t sure what happened, but that a police officer convinced her to go to the hospital.

“She said ‘you have a hole in your body. You don’t know what could be in there,’” Kong said.

At WakeMed she says she was in disbelief when doctors showed her an X-ray revealing the bullet in her body.

“It went through my ribs, and it went through a lung. Then my diaphragm, then my stomach and liver,” said Kong.

Kong says her lung collapsed in surgery. She spent a week in the hospital and missed the beginning of her last semester at UNC-Chapel Hill. 

As the Fourth of July approaches, another holiday with fireworks and festivities, Kong worries someone will celebrate by shooting their gun into the sky.

“The bullet is going to have to go down.  It’s science and gravity.  It’s going to come down somewhere,” she said.

Kong is urging anyone who participates in celebratory gunfire, to think twice.

“I think it should be common sense, but maybe seeing real life consequences could convince somebody, not to the next holiday,” she said.

Kong said she was determined not to let the injury slow her down. She graduated from UNC this spring and currently has an internship. She hopes to pursue a career in urban development, and the environment, two topics she is passionate about.

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