I worked at a Huddle House diner in Conway, SC last summer that had a hole in the glass near the front tables. When I asked what it was, my co-workers told me that it was a hole from a stray bullet, and I was wondering why anyone still worked there. I actually ended up quitting after being there for a few months as the overnight cook, because there were several shootings out in the parking lot. All I could think about was that stray bullet hole that had come through the glass shortly before I began working there.

I just said to myself, “This is not so much money an hour, and definitely not enough money to get shot over.”

Recent stray bullet shootings in the U.S.

I got to wondering how many people actually got killed by stray bullets in the United States every year. I mean, Conway, SC is not a terribly violent place to live, but for a bullet to come through the window of a diner that is located in a relatively peaceful place surprised me. But, the stories from across the country last year brought me to tears. For example, on New Year’s Eve of 2016, a 13-year-old basketball player in Mount Vernon, New York named Shamoya McKenzie was shot in the head by a stray bullet that took her life. According to CBS News New York, her mother told WCBS 880 that Shamoya was looking forward to attending the University of Connecticut, and then joining the WNBA.

Just the month before, in Miami, a mother of nine children was also shot and killed by a stray bullet. On the first Sunday in November of 2016, 50-year-old Sonia Williams was sitting in a truck when a bullet that was meant for someone else hit her in the neck, taking her life. In both Sonia’s and Shamoya’s deaths they were sitting in vehicles, and had nothing to do with what was going on.

7 News Miami reports that her nine children were devastated that their loving mother, an innocent bystander, was unnecessarily taken away from them. I began to think of someone that I knew closely in Myrtle Beach, SC, a mother of three, who had a stray bullet come through the wall of her home in 2016.

“I was upstairs in my bed asleep when it happened,” said Ebony Waters, a resident of Carver Apartments in Myrtle Beach who had a stray bullet come through her living room wall last year.

“The kids ran upstairs and said that they thought someone threw some firecrackers in the house, but I knew that wasn’t true because the windows were closed. That’s when I went downstairs and noticed the bullet on the floor. Then, I went outside and realized that someone had been shot. I was mad as hell. When the police got there he said that from the location of the stray bullet it had come in near the television set, and when he began moving the pictures around that’s when I noticed the bullet hole. He said that it was a 38- caliber bullet, and I wasn’t mad anymore and began crying, because my little cousin was down here on the couch and it could have hit her.”

Stray bullet statistics in the U.S.

One study from a few years ago by UC Davis Health System found that frequently stray bullets end up harming women and children, as it was in the stories that I found as well as the one that I interviewed with Ms. Waters. Their study found that most victims of stray bullets were between the ages of 15 and 34, over 44% of those shot were females, and 68% of the victims of stray bullets were indoors at the time.