Marquel Peters was 4 years old when a celebratory bullet came through the roof of a church and killed him. If Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton has anything to say about it, such a tragedy isn't going to happen in Newton County.
Cotton is urging residents to think before they act during Fourth of July celebrations so that Newton County doesn't have to mourn someone the way DeKalb County did with Marquel.
"A fun afternoon can turn into a tragedy if people don't use their heads," he said. "We actually had a bullet come through the roof of a house on New Year's Eve and land in the chair where someone would normally have been sitting if they weren't out at the time."
He asked anyone who sees celebratory shooting to get a description or name of the person and call 911, because, typically, someone will shoot and then run inside and hide their gun. By the time officers get to the scene, the shooter is gone. If police catch the person doing the shooting, Cotton says they will be cited.
Cotton is also pleading with residents not to drink and drive and not to drink and go swimming or boating. Alcohol is not permitted at the fireworks show on the square, and there will be plenty of officers on hand to make sure that anyone with alcohol will be cited.
Dry conditions persist in the city and county despite several quick afternoon showers. Cotton said people lighting fireworks at home should be mindful dry conditions. He also said that if fireworks being used in the city are not legal in the state, people setting them off will face charges.
"We'll have a good contingent of public safety out at the July 3 event on the square with music starting around 3 p.m. and fireworks later," he said. "We want to encourage everybody to come out for that, and they can do that knowing they will be safe and secure and have a good time in the city."
The square will be blocked off and traffic is expected, but Cotton feels that won't dampen the fun one bit. Along with sitting on the square, people can park in the parking lots along U.S. Highway 278 and Pace Street and watch the fireworks without any problem