Stray bullet that hit UNC student at First Night Raleigh ‘could have come from couple blocks away’

January 3, 2019
Kaitlyn Kong

As a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student recovers from a shooting at First Night Raleigh, police are still trying to figure out where the bullet that hit her came from.

Kaitlyn Kong, 22, was downtown celebrating the new year with her roommate, Allyson Cole. They had just watched the Acorn Drop and were listening to a band when Kong was shot in the chest.

″[We] didn’t hear a noise. We didn’t know what was happening. She was grabbing her ribs and leaning on me significantly,” Cole said.

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.

“My first initial thought, the society we live in, it’s another Las Vegas. It’s a shooting,” Cole said.

Gun experts tell us that bullet could have come from anywhere – a window, balcony, a roof, even from several streets away.

“A lot of times, we get excited for New Year’s and Fourth of July, and a lot of folks do aim [guns] in the air and fire them off,” said Clay Ausley, the owner of Fuquay Gun and Gold in Fuquay-Varina. “It happens, but it’s very unusual for it to actually hit a person.”

Ausley and others said a bullet from a handgun can travel more than 1,000 yards, or more than 10 football fields. A rifle bullet can travel up to a mile, they said.

“It could have actually come from a couple of blocks away,” Ausley said. “It could have come from the top of one of the buildings right there nearby. It could have come from behind one of the buildings in an alleyway.”

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.

Kaitlyn Kong underwent four hours of surgery Tuesday and was recovering at WakeMed.

“While I’m still shocked this happened to me, I’m thankful I survived,” Kaitlyn Kong said in a Facebook message.

Her family issued a statement Wednesday thanking the public for their concern and support.

“While we ask for privacy as we continue to focus on Kaitlyn’s healing and recovery, it is our hope that this unfortunate series of events will bring about more conversation and positive action on responsible gun use.”

Ausley said firing a gun into the air shouldn’t be done on a whim.

“Really, if we’re going to do that, we have to make sure we are aiming into a good, safe backstop so we know where [the bullet’s] final resting place is going to be,” he said. “Any responsible gun owner is to know [that], what he is aiming his gun at, he intends to actually hit it – and know what is beyond that target just in case the worst happens.”

Raleigh prohibits anyone from discharging a firearm within the city, except under very limited circumstances. Penalties for doing so come along with a fine of $500.

Anyone who may have seen or heard something in the area where Kong was shot is asked to call Raleigh Crime Stoppers at 919-834-4357.

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