PHILADELPHIA (Dec. 31, 2015) – The Philadelphia District Attorney and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey today reminded all Philadelphians to celebrate safely this New Year’s Eve, especially when it comes to irresponsible gun use.
“If you and your friends want to celebrate 2016, do so, but do it safely and don’t fire your gun in the air,” said District Attorney Williams, “Remember, this is the City of Philadelphia with more than 1.5 million people living in it and firing your gun in the air has real consequences. People can get hurt, maybe lose their life and if you are caught you will be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Joe Jaskolka, whose life almost ended because of celebratory gun fire, joined the District Attorney and the Commissioner for the announcement. On Dec. 31, 1998, Joe Jaskolka was struck in the head by a bullet that was fired in “celebration” while he was walking in South Philadelphia. Joe, who was only 11-years-old at the time, still has the bullet lodged in his head and the person who fired the gun has never been caught. As a result of his injury, Joe is paralyzed on the right side of his body and can’t use the left-side of his vocal chords. He is now 28-years-old and has undergone 33 surgeries to his brain and 21 surgeries to his eyes. The Jaskolka family estimates that insurers have paid more than $15 million dollars to cover the cost of his surgeries.
“Celebrating the New Year in a safe and joyful manner is smart, celebrating with a gun is not, leave the guns in the house. Firing a gun in the air isn’t a celebration for anyone, especially for those killed or injured as a result of this type of reckless action and there is zero tolerance for it,” said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “We want everyone to be safe and to be able to enjoy the New Year without harm or any tragic incidents.”
Anyone caught shooting a firearm into the air could be charged with Recklessly Endangering Another Person and receive several years in prison. If the bullet hits another person, the shooter could be charged with Aggravated Assault, Attempted Murder or even Murder.
The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) received 78 reports of gunshots fired between 10 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2014 and 3 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2015. On an average, the PPD receives about ten reports of gunshots fired each night.