Family mourns Durham woman killed by celebratory gunfire on July 4th

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham police are still investigating the tragic death of Paulette Thorpe, 74, who was struck by a stray bullet while celebrating Independence Day with friends on Saturday night.

Authorities got the call around 11 p.m. that Thorpe had been struck by a bullet and neighbors did not know where it came from.

She was transported to a nearby hospital where she later died.

Durham police said they had reason to believe Thorpe was killed by “celebratory gunfire” after someone in the area fired a gun toward the sky to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Neighbors in the area said they heard both fireworks and gunfire and some neighbors thought the gunfire may have come from Shady Oaks Park behind the home where Thorpe was shot.

Authorities are still searching for who is responsible for firing the weapon that killed Thorpe.

Thorpe’s family is heartbroken and in disbelief that this could happen.

“I’m just numb and shocked,” said Carlos Lyons, Thorpe’s nephew. “I can’t believe it. It’s like a dream. She was just with us at 8:30.”

Lyons said Thorpe was actually celebrating with relatives at a different location earlier in the night where she could hear people firing guns into the air. Lyons said Thorpe decided to leave and go to her friend’s home on Burlington Avenue to get away from the gunfire.

“The one thing she was trying to leave from, is the thing that killed her,” Lyons said.

While police are tracking down who is responsible for firing the weapon that killed Thorpe, her family is mourning the loss of a loving sister, friend, and aunt who liked to cook and who was active in church.

“She was just loyal,” Lyons said. “She was loyal to her family and her friends. It’s tragic.”

Lyons said they are seeking justice for Thorpe and they are asking anyone with any information to call authorities.

“There’s two things you learn as a youth: You learn right from wrong and you know what goes up must come down,” Lyons said. “Whoever shot the bullet, they didn’t care about either of those things. Now my aunt is gone, that person is still walking around with a gun, and we’re walking around trying to plan a funeral. It’s just unfair, it’s not right.”

Investigators said the suspect in this case could face anything from involuntary manslaughter to some degree of murder.

Anyone with information about the incident, is asked to call 919-560-4440 ext. 29529 or Crime stoppers at 919-683-1200.

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