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Las Vegas Police helicopter reports celebratory New Year gunfire from the air

Posted at 10:02 PM, Jan 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-02 06:45:04-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV — As an estimated 330,000 people welcomed 2020 in Las Vegas, a police helicopter reported celebratory gunfire around the Las Vegas valley as the clock struck midnight.

Authorities warn against celebratory gunfire each year, which has a history of seriously injuring and even killing people.

A Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department helicopter pilot radioed the North Las Vegas airport tower just after midnight.

Las Vegas Police pilot to North Las Vegas Tower:

"North Las Vegas Air Traffic Helicopter, Metro 2, 2,600, we are just North and West of the [air] field, we are going to push a little farther to the north, and turn to the left, and just so you are aware, we still do have all the gunfire going off from the New Year."

Just moments earlier, two media helicopters were over the Strip, including KNTV's Chopper 13, which goes by the call sign "TV-13" while airborne.

"[Las Vegas] Tower, TV-13, if it's ok with you, sir, I'd like to make large left orbits around the City Center," requested the Chopper 13 pilot.

"TV-13 Approved, Sky 3 is just above, the Stratosphere. Southbound," remarked the air traffic controller.

"We got him in sight," responded Chopper 13.

At the same time, tour helicopters were also nearby.

Air traffic control recordings show the Las Vegas police helicopter reported illegal fireworks near McCarran's runways as well.

Those in the aviation industry say celebratory gunfire poses a relatively low-risk for airborne aircraft while the danger is high for those on the ground from falling bullets.

“That’s a very normal reaction for something that alarming as gunfire in the valley and being able to address it from the air, it certainly must be significant thing to view and experience but at the same time again the real potential of risk to an aircraft that far away from gunfire is pretty minimal," said Michael Couch with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems.

Just as 2020 was rolling in, Phillipa Ashford, 61, was killed in a case of celebratory gunfire, according to Houston, Texas affiliate, ABC 13.

A quick internet searched revealed at least 3 people were killed nationwide, half a dozen others injured in what authorities are calling cases of celebratory gunfire.

Las Vegas Police say despite the visitor volume, only 15 arrests were made for both the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas.

No other significant events were revealed by police.

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