Four-Year-Old Killed by Rifle Fired into the Air on New Year's Eve

A four-year-old Georgia boy was shot and killed while in church on New Year's Eve. A firearms expert has said that the bullet was most likely fired into the air by someone celebrating the New Year.

“I would suspect this was a rifle. An AK-47,” said Kelly Fite, a ballistics expert with decades of respected service in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s state Crime Lab. Fite explained that the AK-47 is the most commonly found weapon in the downtown area where the shooting took place.

Marquel Peters was playing a video game while he and he mother waited for a 12:30am concert at their church when the boy was shot in the head by descending bullet. Investigators found that the bullet came through the church's roof to hit Marquel. The boy was still alive on the floor when emergency medical personal arrived, but later died at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

The police do not expect to make an arrest in this case, unless they can connect the bullet to a gun involved in another crime. Fite says that it is highly unlikely that the shooter even knows that he killed anyone. According to Fite, the shooter was most likely about a half-mile away when he fired his gun into the air at perhaps a 40 degree angle, though it is possible that he was as much as two or three miles away from the scene of Marquel Peters' death.

“This bullet that hit this kid was not shot straight up because it would have come down near the shooter,” Fite said.

Despite this, the family of the deceased has asked that the shooter come forward.

Unfortunately, this sort of shooting is not as uncommon as people may think. The circumstances that killed the four year old Marquel Peters are actually fairly normal on New Year's Eve. People go outside and they fire their guns into the air as part of their New Year's festivities.

It is not at all impossible for a bullet shot into the air to travel unexpectedly long distances before coming back to earth and strike someone, sometimes even passing through roofs to do so, according to Fite.

“This is New Year’s Eve and people are out shooting their guns,” he said.

The practice is dangerous and illegal, but not uncommon, and this is not the first time that people have been hit in Atlanta on New Year's Eve because of it. In 2005, two people were struck by stray bullets which had been fired into the air. The first, Aimee Buff, was celebrating her twenty-seventh birthday when a bullet hit her, lodging two inches from her spine. The second, Merritt Tidwel, was a few blocks away and was hit below the knee when a bullet passed through the roof of the Georgia Dome, where Tidwel had been watching the Peach Bowl.

These examples are just some of the incidents in the past years where individuals were hurt or killed as a result of stay bullets. Sadly, there is no good way to protect yourself or loved ones from stray bullets that may have been shot with a gun as far as half a mile away, but if you do see someone shooting guns off into the air in celebration, alert the authorities. You just might save a life.