‘She has already forgiven you’: Family wants answers after Durham woman killed by celebratory gunfire

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Durham police are asking for the public’s help finding who is responsible for shooting off celebratory gunfire on the Fourth of July and killing 74-year-old Paulette Thorpe.

Thorpe was celebrating with family and friends around 11 p.m. on Saturday night on Burlington Avenue when she was struck by a stray bullet in the chest. She was taken to the hospital where she later died.

Authorities believe this was the result of celebratory gunfire because of the direction where the bullet came from.

“The projectile did follow a downward path through Ms. Thorpe’s torso and so that indicates the bullet came down from above instead of being directly fired at her,” said investigator Adam Bongarten with the Durham Police Department’s Homicide Unit.

On Wednesday, the Durham Police Department said it is still trying to track down the suspect who fired the shot.

Investigators said they had received some leads, but they said it is not enough to solve the case.

“It’s not going to be an easy case,” Bongarten said. “Unfortunately, being able to determine the firearm is the first step as far as identifying the shooter.”

Police said they think the bullet could have come from anywhere within a 2-mile radius of Burlington Avenue and Fayetteville Street. They are asking anyone who was in the area firing a gun on the Fourth of July around 11 p.m. to come forward.

“If you are wearing this on your heart and it’s on your conscience, and you think you might’ve been involved, give us a call,” said Corporal Jesse Green, with the Durham Police Department’s Homicide Unit. “Nobody’s going to jump on you and put handcuffs on you, but we’re going to talk it out.”

Herman Davenport, a close friend of the family, said the Thorpes are seeking closure as they mourn the loss of a loving sister, mother, and grandmother.

Davenport said they are hoping that someone will come forward with information and that this will be a wake-up call for people to stop celebrating with gunfire.

“To this person who did this, if you knew her, you would know she has already forgiven you. That’s her,” Davenport said. “That’s the person she is. She has already forgiven you.”

Thorpe’s family is planning her funeral services, which will be Friday and Saturday. A public viewing has been scheduled for Friday from 2 to 7:30 p.m. at Scarborough & Hargett Celebration of Life Center, Inc.

A graveside service has been scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at Beechwood Cemetery.

If you have any information about this incident, call Bongarten at 919-560-4440 ext. 29529 or Crimestoppers at 919-683-1200.

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