Fireworks are typical to hear while ringing in the New Year, but all around the Mid-South, something much scarier filled the air on New Year’s Eve: gunfire.
There were reports of hearing gunfire mixed with fireworks in Forrest City, Arkansas.
“It was getting close to midnight,” resident Lisa Reeves said. “I started hearing them in more rapid succession.”
She said she felt like she was in the middle of a war zone.
“You may normally hear a couple rounds, but you won’t hear 1,000-plus rounds,” Reeves said. “It sounded like something you’d hear in a news report with someone embedded with an armed division.”
Forrest City Mayor Cedric WIlliams was in his first day on the job that night.
“It was a difficult night. Tough night,” he said.
He said officers did go out Monday night, but they kept their lights and sirens off to try to catch the shooters in the act. Forrest City officers responded to 178 calls all night, and they are a town of only 14,000 people.
“We have laws now where more and more people are carrying guns,” Williams said. “You have more and more people carrying guns, you have more gunfire. What is unusual this seems like more of the high caliber weapons being shot."
Forrest City wasn't the only town in a late-night panic. In Memphis, police said they responded to more than 100 calls at midnight alone, and they had more calls this year on New Year’s Eve than last year.
“There’s got to be something done about this because what goes up must come down, and I even found a gunshot on my house this morning,” Reeves said.
Williams also said it’s just a matter of time before someone innocent is hurt.
“When those bullets go up, there may be kids outside,” he said. “A 6-year-old killed in Oakland. Injuries all over country.”
They just want people to celebrate safely and legally.
No one in Forrest city reported any gunshot injuries. Memphis Police said they treated at least one person who was shot in the leg.
Forrest City officers said they are working on a plan to better saturate areas with patrolling on holidays.
Forrest City police released the following statement from Chief Deon Lee:
"I have been made aware of the alleged celebratory shootings inside the city limits of Forrest City. This is a disturbing fact that appears to be a growing trend within our city. In anticipation of these events your local law enforcement agencies, from the Forrest City Police Department, St. Francis County Sheriff's Office, and The Arkansas State Police, were in full capacity during the New Year Celebrations.
There were extra officers on the street to assist with locating the violators as they were shooting. During the new years from December 31st, 2018 through January 1st, 2018 our dispatch recorded 178 calls for service. One of those calls, just after midnight, was a large disturbance at a local nightclub involving more than one hundred patrons.
The Forrest City Police Department was instructed to respond to every call of shots fired. However, in an attempt to prevent officers from driving recklessly to every call and potentially put more lives in danger they did not respond with lights and sirens to every call. This was also an attempt to catch some of the perpetrators in action. We understand that lights and siren may have worked as a better deterrent as this year appeared to have been worse than years past.
You can rest assured that the Forrest City Police Department is doing everything within its power to prevent future incidents like this year's celebratory shootings. There were no reported incidents of damage or injuries within our jurisdiction in relation to these shootings.
However, these are not victimless crimes and have potential to do a lot of harm. A 6-year-old girl in Oakland was struck in the head, a 9-year-old boy Atlanta was struck in the stomach, and a 22-year-old woman in Raleigh was struck in the chest all from celebratory gunfire. This is a crime in Forrest City and if someone is injured during the commission of this crime it will result in felony charges.
We are asking for the public's help in these instances as well. If you see someone firing a gun, please don't turn a blind eye, call the police and file charges against that individual."