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Updated Dec 27, 2013 - 11:38 am

Phoenix police warn against celebratory New Year's Eve gunfire

Phoenix police officers are handing out flyers (pictured above) at Valley stores cautioning people against firing a gun up into the air on New Year's Eve. (KTAR photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- With New Year's Eve celebrations coming up, Phoenix police are outside various stores Thursday passing out flyers to remind people about Shannon's Law.

The law makes it a felony to fire a gun into the air to celebrate.

"It all stemmed from 1999, when Shannon Smith was killed in her backyard (in Phoenix) from random gunfire," said Phoenix police Sgt. Tommy Thompson.

Thompson said Smith wasn't the only person in Phoenix to die that way. The Phoenix sergeant is about to have his 31st New Year's Eve as a police officer. The first time he remembers someone being killed by random gunfire on the year-end holiday was in 1983.

"I was on another call, but one of my partners was on a call where a grandfather was in bed with a bunch of his grandbabies. I think he had been left with the assignment to attend to the kids," Thompson said. "Someone -- it was a woman -- stepped outside of her apartment and started shooting her gun to celebrate. The bullet went through the apartment window and killed grandpa."

Phoenix police Assistant Chief Harry Markley warns that if you're caught firing a gun to celebrate New Year's, there will be consequences.

"If we do find you, we're going to take you to jail," Markley said. "We're not going to write you a ticket. We're not going to warn you. You're going to go to jail for that."

Phoenix residents are apparently getting the message not to shoot. Thompson said that such calls on New Year's Eve have dropped 83 percent in Phoenix in the 11 years that Shannon's Law has been in effect.

The department and advocates are scheduled Friday to pass out flyers in Phoenix neighborhoods warning residents about random gunfire.

Officers from the Estrella Mountain Precinct were slated to pass out educational material.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Author


Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.

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