HOLYOKE, Mass. – A police officer who ran to disarm and arrest a man who was firing his gun into the air in a crowded downtown got jeered at and had things thrown at him for his trouble, police said.
Officer Dustin Summers, a police officer in the western Massachusetts city of Holyoke, saw Rafael Cruz-Ayala, 30, shooting a .40-caliber semiautomatic Smith & Wesson handgun during a recent mid-morning, according to MassLive.com, the web site of the Springfield Republican.
The man had fired five rounds and had only one bullet left in the chamber by the time Summers got there and stopped him, a Holyoke police spokesman said.
But in Holyoke, Massachusetts last week, people in the area took the shooter’s side. They “began jeering and taunting detectives and officers who arrived to assist,” Holyoke Police Lieutenant James Albert said, according to MassLive.com.
And they didn’t stop at words.
“A potted plant and other items were thrown down at the officers from three stories above nearly striking them,” Albert said, according to MassLive.com.
During the search, police said, they found heroin on the shooter.
Firing a gun into the air is illegal in most places in the United States because what goes up must come down. Every once in a while someone is killed by a falling bullet fired into the air from somewhere nearby.
As police were taking the suspect into custody, officials say that people in the building above them began hurling objects, such as potted plants, at Holyoke officers. https://t.co/hOL7eFErxN
— Western Mass News (@WMassNews) July 15, 2019
One example: A 13-year-old boy was playing basketball at a playground in Hammond, Indiana (about 21 miles south of Chicago) in July 2017 died after a falling bullet struck him in the head.
Another: A 7-year-old boy waiting for a Fourth of July fireworks display in July 2013 in Chesterfield County, Virginia (south of Richmond) was struck on top of his head and killed by a bullet that police believe was fired into the air somewhere else.
Though not frequent, the occurrence is common enough to have attracted a scholarly study in 2007 in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
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Why is the practice dangerous?
“When fired into the air, bullets can return to the ground at speeds greater than 200 ft./sec., a sufficient force to penetrate the human skull and cause serious injury or death,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported in December 2004.
A study in Puerto Rico released in 2004 found that 36 percent of injuries sustained from celebratory gunfire are to children under 15, and that a plurality of those injuries are to the head.
The neighborhood is known for drugs, violence, and gangs. From July 1, 2018 to late June 2019, Holyoke police got 464 service calls from buildings near the shooting-in-the-air incident — 13 for shots fired. Police made 126 arrests there during the past year, according to MassLive.com.
The shooter was charged with possession of a firearm without a license, possession of a gun with a defaced serial number, possession of ammunition without a permit, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, and possession of heroin, police said.
The incident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 12.
As of Monday, July 15, Ayala-Cruz was being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing.
Written and submitted by Matthew McDonald, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for NewBostonPost.
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