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Boy's mother warns: Don't fire your gun into the air on the Fourth of July

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Published Jul. 4, 2013

A year and a half ago, 12-year-old Diego Duran stood watching a New Year's fireworks display in his front yard when a bullet fell from the sky and penetrated his skull.

He spent the next five months in the hospital and later endured months of rehabilitative therapy as a result of what authorities think was celebratory gunfire.

On Wednesday, a day before the Fourth of July holiday, the Ruskin teen stood alongside his mother, Sandy Duran, and supporters of her nonprofit group Bullet Free Sky, to encourage revelers to avoid firing their guns into the air.

"We have spoken to so many people, including people who have practiced celebratory gunfire," Sandy Duran said of her group's efforts. "And we've been able to change their minds about it."

The idea to create the group came to Sandy Duran hours after her son was shot, as she sat in a hospital visitor's room awaiting word about his condition. Not long after, Bullet Free Sky was born.

The nonprofit group visits local venues and maintains a presence at community events to educate people about the dangers of celebratory gunfire. Members hand out literature and gear up to promote their cause before every major holiday.

Sandy Duran emphasizes that it is not an anti-gun group. Rather, the mission is safety and common sense.

"A lot of the things we hear are 'my grandfather used to do it,' or 'my uncle did it,' " she said. "We want people to know that when they pull that trigger, they can take someone's life."

To continue to get their message out, the group held a fundraiser Wednesday at the Firehouse Cultural Center, 101 First Ave. NE in Ruskin. The event featured live music, raffles, a gun safety presentation and other activities.

The bullet that hit Diego Duran could have come from as far as a few miles away from his home. Despite a high-profile investigation, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies have never been able to pinpoint exactly where the bullet came from. No arrests have been made.

Today, Diego is better, but still deals with lingering effects of his injury. He has memory problems. A shunt still drains fluid from his brain to his stomach.

But despite his affliction, Diego has moved on, his mother said.

"A lot has changed in many different ways," she said. "It has kind of been up and down to the extreme."