New Year's reveler accidentally struck by celebratory gunfire in San Leandro

Image 1 of 2

SAN LEANDRO (Debora Villalon/KTVU)-- Friends of a San Leandro woman, wounded by celebratory gunfire on New Year's Eve, say she is shaken up but not seriously injured. 

The 22-year-old woman, a recent immigrant from Kyrgyzstan, was struck in the lower back by a bullet police believe travelled about a quarter-mile. 

"She felt something, and we asked what happened and she said she got shot," the party host told KTVU.

She identified herself only by first name, Ceren, because she and husband Nefer, immigrants from Turkey, are nervous about what happened. 

"We weren't scared," said Nefer, "until our friend got shot."

It happened a few minutes past midnight, as the couple hosted a gathering for about a dozen friends.

They were gathered around an outdoor fire pit, and had just counted down to the new year, when amid their cheers, automatic gunfire could be heard in the distance. 

Moments later, their guest felt  sting in her lower back, from a bullet that pierced her parka and drew blood. 

"She was quiet, and we understand now that she was in pain, but she didn't want to scare us and ruin the party, so she didn't really say anything for an hour."

At the midnight hour, San Leandro Police received at least a half-dozen calls about celebratory gunfire.

The call closest to the Pacific Avenue party location was a half-block away, at Dabner and Davis Streets. 

The caller described rapid fire assault rounds being fired. 

On cell phone video from the party, those shots can be heard as well. 

"The likelihood is, this bullet came down, struck the ground, ricocheted, losing it's velocity and hitting her," Lt. Robert McManus of the San Leandro Police Dept.told KTVU. 

A foot or so either direction, she might have been hit directly.  

"So fortunately she was not struck in the head, not struck critically. We got lucky this time," said McManus. 

Police have the bullet, after the young victim searched on her own in the dark for it. 

"She was scared, and she didn't tell anyone about it," said Nefer, "until she found the bullet." 

Longtime residents of the neighborhood say random gunfire on holidays has actually lessened over the years. 

"This year was much better than previous years," observed a neighbor who gave her name as Karin," still that's terrible, really kind of frightening."  

Guests at the disrupted party said they were startled to hear police say holiday gunfire injures and kills people across the U.S., especially in major cities. 

"The police said you could be dead if it found your head or your eye. We were lucky actually," said Ceren.  

Statistics show about one-third of people struck by celebratory gunfire die of their wound, which is a rate five times higher than other gunfire. 

A bullet can stay in flight for more than a minute, traveling at 700- 1,000 feet per second. 

The wounds are often fatal because a falling bullet is likely to strike the upper body.