DeKalb County officials are urging residents to honor the memory of 4-year-old Marquel Peters and refrain from celebratory gunfire over the Fourth of July holiday and on New Year’s Eve.
William Miller, DeKalb’s director of public safety, said Marquel’s Pledge will create a safer environment during the holidays.
“We’re asking for every single member of the community not to shoot weapons in the air on New Year’s Eve or the Fourth of July,” Miller said. “And even if you don’t, then tell your neighbors, friends and co-workers not to do it.”
Marquel, who was sitting in church next to his mother at a New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service, was killed when he was struck in the head by a stray bullet. Miller said the bullet, which pierced the roof of the church, was either a .44 or .45 caliber and fired from a revolver, a semiautomatic handgun or short rifle.
“We’ve spoken with his mother [Natalee Peters], and she has been supportive,” Miller said. “She doesn’t want her son to have died in vain.”
Family members have struggled to cope with Marquel’s death but “with help from the Lord we’ll make it,” said uncle Gary Peters. “Our desire is that if we can help raise awareness so this doesn’t happen again, then mission accomplished.”
Miller said he has visited about a dozen county businesses that sell firearms to make them aware of the pledge. He also has contacted Wal-Mart by phone and said the company is “on board” with the project.
“We’re asking anyone who sells firearms or ammunition to educate their customers,” Miller said. “We’re asking business owners not to sell ammunition the day before the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. We’ve gone door to door to remind them.”
Residents who do fire weapons in celebration could be charged with discharging firearms in public or reckless conduct, Miller said.
“If I can get the anticipated reduction in firing guns, it will be safer to patrol the streets and catch someone in the act of firing a weapon in celebration,” Miller said. “It’s such a long-standing tradition in the south that in years past it’s not even safe for our patrol cars to be out on New Year’s Eve.”