Friends remember woman killed by ‘celebratory gunfire’ in Durham

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham police say 74-year-old Paulette Thorpe died after she was struck by celebratory gunfire at a July 4th celebration Saturday night.

It happened around 11 p.m., as Thorpe and several neighbors were celebrating the holiday at a house in the 500 block of Burlington Avenue.

“We were just talking, I was talking to her, we were all conversating, when all of sudden out of nowhere, something came out and hit her kind of in the chest,” said Michael Peaks, who was there on Saturday night. “We thought it was a bug or something. She jumped and said, ‘damn, something just bit me’.”

But police say Thorpe was hit by a stray bullet that someone fired into the air.

“When the paramedics got here, they foreseen what the deal was and took her straight to Duke [hospital],” said Peaks. “They knew they had to move fast.”

Police say Thorpe died a short time after arriving at the hospital. Neighbors endearingly referred to Thorpe as “Miss Pauline,” and tell CBS17 she was loved by many in the community. 

“She was quiet, she tend to her own business, but she was always a well-dressed woman,” said Linda Leake, who says she was friends with Thorpe. “Every time you see her, she was always made up and everything. She was a very sweet person, very friendly. And I’m going to miss her. I really am.” 

They don’t know who fired the gun or from where. But neighbors suspect it came from the nearby park.

As they cope with the loss of their friend, they hope the person who took Thorpe’s life will turn themselves in.

Leake added, “It’s senseless; you don’t be shooting up in the air, because you know bullets don’t have no names on them.

In a statement, Durham Police Chief Cerelyn Davis said:

“Last night as people throughout Durham peacefully celebrated the July 4th holiday with their friends and family, a small few chose to put our community at risk by carelessly firing guns into the air.  This reckless behavior led to the tragic death of Ms. Paulette Thorpe.  Ms. Thorpe’s death reminds us that we as a community must work together to prevent these senseless acts, so that no family suffers such a tragedy ever again.”

Anyone with information regarding this shooting is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.

More headlines from CBS17.com:

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