Durham Police warn of celebratory gunfire a year after woman was killed by stray bullet

Paulette Thorpe, 74, was killed by celebratory gunfire on Independence Day in Durham, North Carolina.

One year after a Durham woman was killed by celebratory gunfire on Independence Day, the city’s police department is telling residents not to fire their guns in the air this July 4 holiday weekend.

In a 35-second public service announcement released Friday, the police department remembers the life of Paulette Thorpe, a 74-year-old Durham mother of five who was fatally struck by a stray bullet while sitting on a friend’s porch on the night of July 4, 2020. The PSA warns that while shooting a gun in the air might seem harmless, it can have deadly consequences.

“Celebratory gunfire is not fun and games, it’s a violent crime that kills. Don’t do it,” a narrator says in the video, which is available in English and Spanish.

The department worked closely with Thorpe’s family to produce the PSA, Lt. G.L. Minor, a spokesperson for the department, said in a release.

“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 said.

In addition to potentially causing serious injury or loss of life, anyone caught firing a gun in the air could be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and face a fine of up to $500, Minor said.

Carlos Lyons, Thorpe’s nephew, told WRAL last week that he wants people to think twice before they shoot their guns in the air.

“What goes up has to come down. What happened to her didn’t have to happen,” Lyons said.

A year after Thorpe’s death, police have yet to charge anyone for firing the bullet that struck her. Lyons urged anyone who thinks they may have been responsible for Thorpe’s death to come forward.

“My family doesn’t hate you. We are hurt, but we don’t hate you. We just want justice like any other family would,” he told WRAL.