INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Toya Wright had settled in for a quiet New Year’s Eve in her home near 30th Street and Moller Road.
She hoped things would stay quiet for herself and the sleeping young child she was babysitting for a friend. But as 2017 became 2018, things in her neighborhood got noisy.
“Probably after midnight, I was in the kitchen,” Wright said. “And I heard a big boom, pretty close. So I knew they were shooting outside.”
Celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July is something Wright had heard many times before. But this time, she heard a different noise in the back of her house. When she went to investigate, she saw a hole in the ceiling of her laundry room and debris on the floor below.
“And as I looked down again, I saw something shiny and it was a bullet,” Wright said.
A responding IMPD officer told Wright it was a .40 caliber bullet. Wright said the officer took the bullet in for evidence, but said the likelihood of finding the person who fired it was very small.
By late morning on New Year’s Day, Wright had gone through the different possibilities of what could have happened if the bullet had hit a different part of her house. Especially with a sleeping baby in the bedroom.
“Had that been on the other end, where I was in the bed room, or it could have came through the kitchen. I mean it came right through the ceiling straight down,” she said. “Thank God it did not happen. I mean I’m looking on the good side that nothing bad happened.
“It’s really dangerous and it’s real, it came through my home,” Wright said.
About five miles to the east, Alyssa Mullens and her boyfriend Travis hosted a New Year’s Eve party at their home in the 3200 block of North Park Avenue. At one point during the party, Travis went upstairs to check on their dogs, who were sleeping in the bedroom. When he walked into the bedroom, he noticed debris on the carpet and a hole in the ceiling. Moments later, he saw a spent bullet sitting on their bed.
“We just moved here a month ago,” Mullens said. “And realizing there’s a bullet laying on our bed, we’re pretty shaken up.”
“Thankfully nobody was hurt, our dogs weren’t hurt, nobody was hit,” she continued. “It’s a serious issue that people need to stop and think before they just decide to shoot a gun up.”
Police records indicate IMPD dispatchers took more than 80 calls from residents reporting gunfire in neighborhoods during New Year’s Eve celebration hours. Five homeowners reported damage from bullets hitting their homes. None of the victims claimed to know anything about who fired the shots.
Every year, public safety officials warn against firing guns to celebrate holidays. But every year, New Year’s Eve and July 4th involve people who don’t heed the warnings. And there have been some very close calls over the years.
On January 1, 2014, Rachel Stevenson said she was actually hit by a stray bullet that crashed through the window of her apartment near 38th Street and Franklin Road. She said she had just returned from a New Year’s Eve church service and was reading her Bible in her bedroom when the ricocheted bullet bounced off her back without breaking her skin. She saved the bullet and called it her “lucky bullet.”
At the time, Stevenson said she was thankful to be unhurt by the stray shot. But she was also afraid to sleep in her bedroom for some time.
“Because I could have been shot dead, or in the hospital paralyzed and I got kids,” she said.
As central Indiana now enters 2018, several more “close call” victims are joining the chorus of those warning against celebratory gunfire.
“They shoot up and what goes up comes down,” Wright said. “I never felt scared, but now that it hit my home, you know it made me feel real scared.”
“Don’t shoot your guns up in the air because they come down somewhere,” Mullens said.