Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Public safety

Family of Ruskin boy wounded on New Year's wants end to celebratory gunfire

RUSKIN

On New Year's Eve, Diego Duran will be indoors.

The 13-year-old Ruskin boy doesn't want to take any chances. And his family doesn't want a repeat of last year.

On Jan. 1, as his family watched fireworks outside their Ruskin home, Diego was struck by a stray bullet.

"I used to enjoy the fireworks," Diego said at a news conference Thursday. "But you never know what's out there or what's going to come down and hit you."

To help raise awareness of the dangers of celebratory gunfire and urge gun owners to leave their firearms at home this New Year's, Diego's family formed the nonprofit group Bullet Free Sky, which organized Thursday's appearance at the Firehouse Cultural Center.

"We want to educate the community so that they know as they celebrate, they could kill anyone out there within a 2-mile radius," said Diego's mother, Sandy Duran. "Share this information, talk about it, print out a poster from our website."

Richard Smeraldo knows the dangers all too well.

Smeraldo was struck by a stray bullet during this year's Fourth of July fireworks display at Safety Harbor. The 9mm bullet came through his nose and out his chin before ricochetting off a metal dog tag around his neck.

"I was extremely lucky the bullet came down the way it did," the 74-year-old Clearwater resident said.

Smeraldo contacted the Durans through their organization a few months ago and met them for the first time Thursday morning.

"We're coming together to have a stronger voice," Sandy Duran said. But she wants to be clear that just because the organization opposes celebratory gunfire, it doesn't have an opinion on gun ownership itself.

"I'm not against guns. I'm against people shooting guns into the air," she said.

Her son is still recovering from his injuries. He spent five months in the hospital and now has a shunt to drain fluid from his brain, Sandy Duran said. But that hasn't seemed to slow him down.

"Ask him how he's doing, and he says fine," she said. "He forgets there's anything wrong."

Through it all, the eighth-grader at Beth Shields Middle School has stayed on track with his education. He even got the go-ahead from his doctor to begin skateboarding again. An Apollo Beach skate park just a few miles away was named in his honor this year.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2442.

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