St. Petersburg police received dozens of calls about celebratory gunfire before midnight New Year's Eve.
One person claims hundreds of rounds were fired near the Childs Park area after midnight, and 67-year-old Laurie Eberhardt took a round in her hand and arm while watching fireworks on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront.
"All of a sudden I looked down and blood was just squirting out, and I realized I had been shot," the part-time St. Petersburg resident recalled Tuesday. "But no one would believe me because there was a lot of noise going on and fireworks. I mean, who gets shot at the Yacht Club?"
Eberhardt, her husband and another couple were among the crowd on the second-floor terrace of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
She was leaning on a railing enjoying the fireworks display when she felt a sharp pain a couple of minutes past midnight.
"The bullet went across the wrist and down into the side of the arm so I could see where it was" she explained, holding up her still-bandaged arm. "I am so lucky the bullet didn't hit an artery or shatter a bone."
Another stroke of luck: The couple she was with are a doctor and a nurse, so diagnosis and treatment started immediately. A haunting thought crept up later.
"I'm a former kindergarten teacher, and I've been grieving – you know all the deaths of the children in Connecticut – and I thought, ‘My gosh, they were, they were shot with the same kind of weapon I was just shot with," Eberhardt said.
St. Petersburg Police spokesman Michael Puetz said "…based on just the appearance [the slug] appears to be a large caliber, which normally could come from either a hunting rifle or potentially an assault type rifle."
Since the bullet literally fell from the sky, finding the shooter is highly unlikely.
Al Davis lives south of the Childs Park area, which is more than three miles from downtown. He said "almost on the stroke of midnight until about 44 minutes past midnight we heard near-continuous gunfire."
Davis claims his life-long enthusiasm for firearms and his career military experience enables him to distinguish different types of gunfire. New Year's Eve he heard one popular assault rifle.
"I don't know whether it was actually an AK-47, but it fired that type of round," Davis said. "It was automatic, full-automatic, and they had a lot of ammunition."
Puetz said it is unlikely a bullet traveled from Childs Park to downtown St. Petersburg.
He said that between 3:30 p.m. and midnight the agency received 44 reports of probable "celebratory gunfire." Figures for reports after midnight were not available.
Eberhardt is the only known victim of personal injury, but reports of property damage from falling bullets will probably trickle in over the next few days.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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