DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Ahead of New Year's Eve, DeKalb County Police are trying to discourage revelers from shooting off celebratory gunfire, hoping they'll take a pledge named for a boy who died as he sat in church 10 years ago.
It's called "Marquel's Pledge," and it's named for Marquel Peters, a 4-year-old boy who tragically died when a stray bullet fell through the roof of The Church of God of Prophecy and hit him as he sat in the pews.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of his death, and nine years since the "Marquel's Pledge" initiative was launched to stop celebratory gunfire.
"DeKalb County citizens, join your department in our efforts to remain committed to the elimination of celebratory gunfire," a flier circulating online among DeKalb Police precincts reads.
The issue of celebratory gunfire is a recurring one around New Year's Eve, leaving a wake of senseless and avoidable tragedies.
Last year, a 9-year-old boy was injured in northwest Atlanta while he was outside with his family rigging fireworks. And two years ago, residents of Peoplestow said they were furious after Four Corners Park was left riddled with shell casings on New Year's Day.
"When I get through the door and remember what actually happened, that he as killed over there, it was so hard," Marquel Peters' mother, Nathalee Peters, told 11Alive at the time of his funeral, held at the same church in which he died. "It's still hard for me, missing my child, my only child."
The pledge named for her son itself reads:
In honor of Marquel Peters, I pledge to stop celebratory gunfire on the 4th of July, New Years Eve, and other holidays. By encouraging members of my community to refrain from using gunfire to celebrate, we make our county safer for all.
In addition to taking MARQUELS PLEDGE, I want to encourage the Georgia State Legislature to enact stiffer penalties for those who are charged with engaging in celebratory gunfire in our community.
According to DeKalb Police, fireworks are allowed on New Year's Eve and into New Year's Day until 1 a.m.