Push for stronger celebratory gunfire penalties following nurse's death

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office says 16 people so far have been charged for New Year’s celebratory gunfire, an illegal practice in the county.

Law enforcement says what could cut down in the numbers of injuries and deaths is educating the public more on the dangers and passing successful legislation.

This conversation comes after the death of 61-year-old Philippa Ashford from northwest Harris County. Authorities are still looking for the person who shot celebratory gunfire into the air, which they believe struck Ashford. 

RELATED: Investigators believe Houston nurse was killed by celebratory gunfire

Andy Kahan with Crime Stoppers tells FOX 26 that even if this suspect is caught, he or she would only be facing a Class A misdemeanor.

Kahan tells us that back in 2017 and 2019 lawmakers—specifically Armando Martinez who was hit by celebratory gunfire himself – introduced a bill that would have enhanced the penalty to a second-degree felony.

"It's been filed not once, but twice, and it's gone nowhere. I was just kind of floored as to why," Kahan says. "And particularly in the state of Texas, which most people would say is a rather conservative state, you would think anything to enhance penalties by those who recklessly discharge a firearm that causes someone's death, you would be in favor of."

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales says Ashford’s death was a senseless death and one that sadly could have been fully prevented.

"We need to look at the data to see where it's happening and then go into those communities to engage with them upfront. By doing that intervention, prevention and education. Letting them know that what goes up, must come down," Sheriff Gonzalez says. "Most of these injuries tend to be very deadly, because they can penetrate the skull."

Crime Stoppers is still offering a reward for information leading up to an arrest for the death of Philippa Ashford. You can call their line: 713-222-TIPS. 

Minutes after Ashford was killed, a man in another area of Harris County was struck in the arm by celebratory gunfire.

RELATED: Man injured by celebratory gunfire in north Harris County