HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — 4th of July fireworks shows are a summertime favorite. But, often times celebratory gunfire gets thrown into the mix. It’s something that has killed people in the past. Now, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is using a tool called ShotSpotter to help keep everyone safe over the holiday.
In the last few years, Tampa Bay has had a number of cases where people have been hurt of even killed by celebratory gunfire during holiday celebrations.
It happened to Richard Smeraldo a few years ago. “It was like getting hit with a baseball bat on my nose. That’s what It felt like. I didn’t know what happened,” he says.
He walked away with just a banged up nose, but for others like Diego Duran the injuries were much worse. He was in his own yard, watching fireworks when a stray bullet hit the top of his head. He spent weeks in a coma followed by a difficult recovery.
Now, Hillsborough County has a strict warning for those who choose to celebrate with the illegal gunfire.
“Oh, you certainly can get arrested depending on the severity of it. It’s illegal to fire firearms when it endangers others,” says Major David Fleet with District 1 of HCSO.
Using a tool called ShotSpotter, deputies can find exactly where that shooter is. This solution provides real-time gunshot location data, enabling informed decisions for faster and more accurate emergency response, while improving intelligence and increasing first responder safety.
The ShotSpotter gunfire alert data and intelligence also provides the sheriff’s office with more forensic evidence leading to more thorough investigations and increased prosecutions for gun-related crime, in addition to enhancing crime analysis and data-driven policing capabilities, helping improve public safety and security.
“If people are going outside to shoot their firearms up in the air, we’re going to know about it, we’re gonna know about it quickly, we’re gonna come and if we can we are going to arrest those who are firing the guns that way,” says Maj. Fleet.