Celebratory New Year’s gunfire seriously wounds UNC student at First Night Raleigh

January 2, 2019
Kaitlyn Kong poses with the giant acorn at the WRAL First Night Raleigh 2019 celebration. Shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, 2019, Kong was hit by a bullet that had been fired into the air during the new year celebration, police said. (Photo courtesy of Allyson Cole)

A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student was struck by a bullet early Tuesday during the WRAL First Night Raleigh celebration downtown.

Allyson Cole said she and her roommate, 22-year-old Kaitlyn Kong, watched the Acorn Drop at midnight and were listening to music when Kong suddenly dropped her phone and grabbed both her chest and her friend.

″‘I’ve been hit. I got hurt really bad,’” Cole said Kong told her. “Her breathing was labored, so I knew something was wrong.”

Police said the two women were near the intersection of Fayetteville and Davie streets when revelers fired guns in the air at 12:05 a.m. to celebrate the new year during a fireworks display.

″[It was] so random. We didn’t hear a noise. We didn’t know what was happening,” Cole said. “She put her hand up, and it was bloody, and we immediately knew that we had to get out of there.”

Cole said she initially thought of the mass shooting in Las Vegas 15 months ago, but she “went full mama bear,” pushing through the First Night crowds to drag Kong to help.

“We had to yell and push people through – and [other] people were helping and pushing,” she said. “It was like just a fight against the crowd to save her life.”

Kong was taken to WakeMed, where an X-ray revealed an object in her abdomen. Raleigh police said the bullet entered her chest and landed in her abdomen. Based on its trajectory, investigators said they believe the bullet came from above.

Cole and Kong’s mother, Gwynne Kong, said the bullet nicked one of Kaitlyn Kong’s lungs, perforated her diaphragm, went through her stomach and ended up next to her hip.

“They were all saying that she is very lucky to be alive,” Gwynne Kong said. “Had it been 2 inches another way, she could have died.”

Kaitlyn Kong underwent four hours of surgery Tuesday and was stable, her mother said.

“I want people to know, what goes up must come down. If you are going to shoot a gun, something is going to come out, and it’s going to come down,” Cole said. “While this one moment of celebrating the heat of a new year and so much excitement, it might have been fun for that one person. I hope that they are really enjoying it now because my roommate and my best friend is in the hospital with a big scar and on morphine because someone decided to shoot a gun into the air instead of being responsible with a firearm.”

Police have no suspects in the case.

“We are aware of the incident that occurred in downtown last night and understand it to be an ongoing RPD investigation,” First Night spokesman Cameron Laws said in a statement.

According to officials, the Raleigh Police Department received several calls about shots fired in downtown Raleigh after midnight. Anyone with information about the incident can call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-4357.

Update hourly