Sister of Durham woman killed by celebratory gunfire calls on community to put the guns down

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Delores Burwell, 73, was struck and killed by a stray bullet in Durham on New Year’s Eve, and police think it was the result of celebratory gunfire.

Burwell’s family is heartbroken and devastated by the loss, questioning how something like this could happen.

“She was a sweet, wonderful sister, grandmother, and mother,” said Jan Harris, Burwell’s sister. “It’s just a shock. What happened shouldn’t have happened. She was the best person you could ever meet.”

Harris said the last time she saw her sister was earlier Friday.

“When we talked to her, she wasn’t going anywhere. The next thing we know, she had been shot,” Harris said.

Harris said Burwell had gone to spend New Year’s Eve with friends. She was standing in a driveway on Robinhood Road in Durham around 10:50 p.m. when she suddenly collapsed.

Harris said they weren’t sure what had happened to Burwell at first.

“They thought she was having a heart attack,” Harris said.

Burwell was taken to the hospital where it was later determined she had in fact been shot. She later died from her injuries.

Authorities are still investigating this shooting, but police said preliminary reports indicate this incident is likely related to celebratory gunfire.

“For a stray bullet to hit her like that, it’s just impossible,” Harris said. “What happened to my sister, should’ve never in life happened. We just talked to her Friday, but we can’t talk to her no more.”

Monday night, as Harris waits for answers, she is urging everyone in the community to put the guns down.

“Please don’t let it happen to anyone else, because like I said, we are suffering, they’re suffering, everybody is suffering,” Harris said. “I wish we could get the guns off the streets to be honest with you, because these young folks are terrible with these guns. I wish someone could tell us who did it, or where that bullet really came from. If you know anything, please tell us. Let us know.”

Burwell is the second person to die as a result of celebratory gunfire in Durham in less than two years.

Police said Paulette Thorpe, 74, was shot and killed by celebratory gunfire while standing outside of a home on Burlington Avenue on July 4, 2020. Investigators tell CBS 17 no arrests were ever made in that case.

Anyone with information in either case is asked to call Investigator Bongarten at (919) 560-4440, ext. 29529 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200. CrimeStoppers pays cash rewards for information leading to arrests in felony cases and callers never have to identify themselves.

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