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St. Petersburg teenager injured by celebratory gunfire

Amber Bartles, 17, was struck by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire on New Year's. Bartles and her boyfriend, David Garrett, were in the backyard of 1110 32nd St looking for fireworks when the bullet pierced her leg. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
Amber Bartles, 17, was struck by a stray bullet from celebratory gunfire on New Year's. Bartles and her boyfriend, David Garrett, were in the backyard of 1110 32nd St looking for fireworks when the bullet pierced her leg. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
Published Jan. 2, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — Amber Bartles, 17, was looking for New Year's fireworks when a bullet fell from the sky and pierced her leg.

"We heard a loud bang and looked over at her holding her leg, and she just said, 'Something hit me. Something hit me. I'm bleeding,' " recounted Bartles' boyfriend, David Garrett, 17. "Everything was surreal from then on."

Bartles was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg where she was treated and released.

St. Petersburg police said Bartles' injury — which could have been much worse if the bullet had fallen even a couple of inches in a different direction — was one of several incidents related to celebratory gunfire on New Year's.

A police cruiser's windshield was cracked, and five men were arrested in separate incidents linked to people firing guns in the air, police said.

Bartles, who walked with a slight limp Friday and said she was still in a lot of pain, was in the back yard of the home at 1110 32nd St. S when she heard the gunshots. However, she couldn't determine where they were coming from.

"It pretty much was, I guess you could say, the best possible scenario," Garrett said. "Considering it was a small caliber and it was just an enter wound and exit wound, it didn't do anything, bouncing around like that.

"It could have been a totally different scenario."

A St. Petersburg police cruiser was also hit by an apparent falling bullet on New Year's Eve. An officer was preparing to go on duty around 10:30 p.m. when he noticed the windshield had been damaged. It's unclear exactly when the cruiser, which was parked at police headquarters at 1300 First Ave. N, was hit.

Tampa Police Department and Pinellas and Hillsborough county sheriff's offices had no reports of celebratory gunfire-related injuries.

A 9-year-old girl in Orlando was injured by a falling bullet, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The girl had just left church when the bullet hit her right arm. She was treated at the scene by the Orlando Fire Department.

Police caution each year against the dangers of firing guns in the air to ring in the new year. Four years ago, 13-year-old Diego Duran was severely injured when a .45-caliber bullet hit him in the head outside his Ruskin home on New Year's. In that case, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies surmised that the bullet came from a celebratory shot fired within a mile of the boy's home.

"We were all very aware that this does happen ever year," Garrett said. "Every Fourth of July, every New Year's, there's always someone that gets hit by a stray bullet. We just never assumed it would happen to someone we know."

Five arrests were made in St. Petersburg in two separate incidents related to celebratory gunfire.

Around 12:30 a.m. Friday, officers responded to 2609 Third Ave. S after receiving a report and heard shots fired in the area. They found four men in front of the home, two of whom had rifles.

The four men ran, but were caught by officers, who recovered a rifle, carbine and handgun, police said. Police also found numerous shell casings along Third Avenue S.

Jararski Ra'sharde Sandy, 28, was charged with improper exhibition of a firearm and obstruction. Samuel Madison Lavine, 19, was charged with possession of marijuana and obstruction. Aaron Jordon Woody, 26, was charged with obstruction. Elijah Dreshaud Johnson, 20, was charged with grand theft of a firearm, improper exhibition of a firearm and obstruction.

Later, around 2 a.m., officers arrived at 640 29th St. S after reports of gunfire and found numerous shell casings on the ground. Aaron Rodriguez Henson, 32, was sitting in a red Monte Carlo in front of the address with an AK-47-style rifle in the back seat.

Officers asked Henson about the rifle, but he refused to answer questions. He was charged with obstruction and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Contact Caitlin Johnston at cjohnston@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401. Follow @cljohnst.

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