Stray bullet kills Texas nurse day after lawmaker warned against celebratory gunfire

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — In anticipation of the new year, Texas state Rep. Armando “Mando” Martinez implored the public to be responsible and not fire guns into the air.

The Democrat from Weslaco feared the same thing that happened to him — or worse — would happen to someone else.

This image provided by The Menninger Clinic shows Phillipa Ashford, whom authorities say was fatally shot by a stray bullet outside her Houston home as she rang in the new year. (Michael Hart/The Menninger Clinic via AP)

The latter happened when a woman ringing in the new year was fatally shot by a stray bullet outside her Houston home.

The Harris County Sheriff’s Office said 61-year-old Philippa Ashford died after being shot at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The sheriff’s department said it appears she may have been struck by celebratory gunfire from outside her immediate neighborhood.

Moments after ringing in 2017, Martinez, too, was hit by a stray bullet.
As he embraced and kissed his wife at midnight outside with his family, a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire became lodged in his brain.

In an interview with Border Report, Martinez said he felt something hit him hard, “kind of like getting hit on the head with a sledgehammer.”

He was coherent and able to talk and see while his wife drove him to a local hospital where doctors discovered a bullet from an AR-15 rifle had gone “through the skull and was poking my brain,” Martinez told Border Report on Monday.

Martinez said he’s lucky to be alive, but he’s also angry. Since that terrifying beginning to 2017, the eight-term lawmaker has taken on celebratory gunfire.

Martinez twice filed legislation in the Texas House that would have made the reckless discharge of a firearm a felony if someone was injured or killed. And as the New Year — and decade — dawns, he said he intends to gain file this bill when the Legislature reconvenes in 2021.

“I keep thinking about how many times this occurred around us and how many of those stray bullets actually fell around us and didn’t hit one of the children that were there and that’s what upsets me the most,” Martinez said.

State Rep. Armando Martinez had several stitches where surgeons removed a bullet from his head after being struck on Jan. 1, 2017. (Courtesy Photo)

In Houston, Ashford’s family and their neighbors were discharging fireworks in their cul-de-sac when she called out that she had been shot, according to the department. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

“We have no indication that any family member or anybody in the cul-de-sac was discharging a firearm and we’ve walked the streets and canvassed up and down to see if we can find any shell casings in the neighborhood and are not finding anything,” Sgt. Ben Beall, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, told the Houston Chronicle.

The Menninger Clinic, a Houston facility that treats mental illness, said in a statement that Ashford was a nurse manager there, serving as a leader and mentor to their nursing and clinical team.

A sheriff in Ohio said a round of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve ricocheted into his cruiser and glanced off his bullet-proof vest. The Allen County sheriff says he wasn’t hurt by the bullet that he says narrowly missed the face of his major, who also was in the car.

In Cleveland, authorities charged a man with reckless homicide after they say he shot and killed his girlfriend “popping off shots” as he celebrated.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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