Joe Jaskolka and his family stood before television cameras Wednesday to repeat a plea they have made every New Year's Eve for more than a decade: for people to stop firing guns into the air at the stroke of midnight.
Jaskolka was 11 when, minutes into the new year in 1999, he was hit in the head by a stray bullet, fired off in celebration near 2nd Street in South Philadelphia. Now 27, Jaskolka has undergone 33 surgeries on his brain, and another 21 on his eyes.
"I lost count at 17," he said Tuesday.
City officials have long decried the dubious tradition of firing shots into the air to ring in the New Year, and it's a problem that persists despite annual news conferences calling for its end.
Last year, District Attorney Seth Williams said, police fielded 114 reports of gunshots between 10 p.m. on Dec. 31 and 3 a.m. on Jan 1.
A typical evening might see just 10 reports of shots fired, he said.
Jaslolka, who is paralyzed on his right side and confined to a wheelchair, joined Williams and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey at Tuesday's news conference.
"I don't want anyone to go through what I had to go through," he said. "This deadly tradition needs to stop."
Anyone caught firing a weapon into the air could be charged with recklessly endangering another person, Williams said. If the bullet strikes anyone, he added, those responsible could face charges of aggravated assault, attempted murder or murder.
Ramsey also cautioned New Year's revelers against driving drunk.
"We need people to be safe," he said.