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St. Pete teen wounded by celebratory gunfire

Posted: 6:07 PM, Jan 01, 2016
Updated: 2016-01-01 23:07:13Z
The new year was off to a scary start for a family in south St. Petersburg.
 
A stray bullet struck a 17-year-old girl just after midnight. Luckily the girl is recovering well. She’s just a bit shaken after being hit by a stray bullet in the leg. 
 
Gunfire was a huge problem across St. Pete last night. Police officers said five people were arrested for firing off guns at the stroke of midnight and, believe it or not, a bullet hit a patrol car at the police department.
 
Fireworks are without a doubt a New Year's Eve mainstay but in some neighborhoods, it’s another dangerous tradition of celebratory gunfire.
 
"I heard a lot of gunshots going off everywhere and fireworks," said Amber Bartles, the 17-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet in south St. Pete along 32nd Street.
 
Bartles was hanging out with friends to watch fireworks and ring in the new year when she felt something hit her.
 
“I looked down, and I was bleeding," Bartles said.
 
A St. Petersburg officer even fell victim to the celebratory gun play. When he came out to start his shift, he discovered his windshield had been shattered by a bullet. This happened right in the police department's parking lot.
 
“It's not isolated just to one or two locations. It can be in many locations and trying to connect a bullet to a particular weapon can be very difficult,” said St. Petersburg Police Department Spokesman Mike Puetz. 
 
Last night across the city five people were arrested after citizen complaints of celebratory shooting. There were reports of one man even firing an AR-15.
 
“It's very unfortunate. We just have people who are foolish and uncaring about the type of activities they engage in," Puetz said.
 
Bartles is simply thankful day one of 2016 didn't end up being her last.
 
“It's not smart at all, especially shooting it in the air because it could hit someone innocent like me,” Bartles said.
 
Local group Bullet Free Sky is pushing for legislation that would make celebratory gun fire a felony. In the case of the 17 year old shot last night, investigators admit it could be hard finding the shooter because they say the bullet could have come from anywhere.