By John Seewer, AP
A sheriff in Ohio was sitting in his cruiser on New Year’s Eve when a round of celebratory gunfire ricocheted through his window, struck him in the chest and bounced off his bullet-proof vest.
Allen County Sheriff Matt Treglia said he wasn’t hurt by the bullet that narrowly missed the face of his major who was sitting in the driver’s seat.
“Pretty quickly we knew it was a round,” he said on Friday. “It took me a minute to realize we weren’t being targeted.”
Around the nation, authorities have said at least two people died apparently from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.
A 61-year-old woman ringing in the new year was killed by a stray bullet outside her Houston home. The woman’s family and neighbors were shooting off fireworks when she called out that she had been shot, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
In Cleveland, authorities charged a 38-year-old man with reckless homicide after they say he fatally struck his girlfriend while he was “popping off shots” just after midnight.
While it’s rare for people to be hit by celebratory gunfire, law enforcement agencies warn that firing randomly into the air is dangerous.
Some departments that use a system called ShotSpotter, which pinpoints a location where a gun was fired, reported detecting hundreds of shots on New Year’s Eve. Police in Cincinnati received 168 reports of gunfire while there were 341 in Columbus.
Treglia, the sheriff in Allen County, estimates he heard about 200-400 rounds being fired while he was in his cruiser before the bullet hit him.
The sheriff said he and his partner had stopped on the side of a street in Lima and that a city police cruiser pulled up next to them as gunfire was ringing out in the neighborhood.
The bullet that struck him first glanced off the other cruiser and then went through the open window of the sheriff’s car, he said. The round left a thumb-sized dent in the other cruiser, Treglia said.
“If that had been a direct strike, it would have been much more serious,” he said. “It was an eye-opening experience.”