By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
RUSKIN — According to family friends, 12-year-old Diego Duran is an A student at Beth Shields Middle School and loves sports. On New Year’s Eve, he was with his family in the front yard of their Ruskin home watching the fireworks. But there were more than sparklers in the sky, it turns out there were bullets, as well.
Just after 1 a.m., as the fireworks were winding down, Diego’s mother Sandra watched him collapse to the ground, bleeding from his nose and ears. She had no idea what had happened to her son but quickly rushed him to South Bay Hospital in Sun City Center. Doctors at the hospital determined that he had suffered a gunshot wound that had entered the top of his head. He was rushed to Tampa General Hospital where, at press time, he remains in serious condition with the bullet still lodged in his head.
According to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Detective Larry McKinnon, “Detectives have interviewed the child’s family members as well as the neighbors and have determined no one in the immediate area was firing a gun. It appears at this time that the victim was shot from celebratory gunfire falling from the sky from a distance that could range for miles away.”
It is a simple law of physics that what goes up must come down, a law that certainly applies to bullets shot into the air. Although a bullet falls to the earth at a much lower velocity than when it is fired directly out of a gun, it is still a hazard that has repeatedly proven to be dangerous and sometimes fatal. Firing a weapon into the air in such a manner is illegal in Florida, along with many other states.
A bullet fired into the air could travel a mile high before falling back down — and it may fall miles from where it originated. The downward speed increases until it reaches terminal velocity, a point at which the resistance from the air equals the mass of the object. Military and laboratory testing over the years have indicated that the terminal velocity of a larger caliber bullet falling to the ground is capable of causing injury and even death.
Yet the practice of firing weapons into the air as part of celebratory events such as New Years and the Fourth of July continues, despite the enormous risks to innocent bystanders. In Ruskin on early Sunday morning, those risks hit home all too clearly, resulting in the serious injury of an innocent child and devastated family and friends at his bedside.
According to Detective McKinnon, the investigation is still ongoing and detectives would like to talk to anyone who may know of someone in the area of Ruskin who may have been firing any type of firearms into the air during the New Year’s celebration.
Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office at 813-247-8200.