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Girl was with family watching fireworks

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 31, 2008) – A 6-year-old girl who was struck in the head by a stray bullet while watching fireworks about 1:30 yesterday morning is in stable condition at Guam Memorial Hospital, said Guam Police Department Sgt. Richard Cress.

Emily Mae Caalim, daughter of Mamerto Caalim and Elmie Caalim, is scheduled for surgery to remove the bullet today. Cress said he suspected the bullet was fired upward as part of a New Year's Eve celebration and police will try to match unique grooves on the bullet to a specific gun and track the owner. Cress said the owner of the gun could be charged with aggravated assault.

"Whether it was their intention to hurt someone or not is not the point," he said.

The girl's aunt, Eva Ramolete, said about 25 family members gathered at her two-story house on Chalan Checho in Yigo to celebrate on Wednesday, like they do every year. Emily Mae was enjoying the festive party as much as anyone.

At midnight, loud bangs echoed from the houses on the street and Ramolete couldn't tell if she heard gunshots or fireworks, she said. She told the children to play with sparklers under the roof of the concrete carport, just in case.

By 1 a.m., the noise had subsided, and Emily Mae and other children were allowed to move to the front of the yard, where she could look back over the house to watch colorful fireworks shoot up from Andersen Air Force Base, Ramolete said.

"After a few minutes, she rushed under the garage to where her dad and her mom were at and she was saying like 'something hit my head!' So my brother took at look at her head, that's when he saw that there was a wound," Ramolete said. "And then it stated bleeding, so I called 911."

Guam Fire Department spokesman Capt. Joseph Flores said an ambulance arrived at the house within a couple of minutes, treated Emily Mae and took her to the hospital. Ramolete said her family was terrified, but her niece was calm and never screamed.

Ramolete said she found out her niece was struck by a bullet yesterday after visiting the hospital. She hoped whoever owned "that stupid gun" would never fire it again. She hoped residents would learn that reckless celebration can have deadly consequences.

ey didn't fire any gun, this wouldn't have happened," she said. "Put that gun away. ... Something so much worse could have happened, really."

Cress said the police had no evidence the girl's parents were firing guns and there was no reason to charge them with any crime.

Illegal firing of guns is a big problem during New Year's Eve celebrations. Guam Memorial Hospital Nursing Supervisor Josephine Eustaquio said Monday she's worked New Year's Eve for the past 12 years, and every year she sees a handful of injuries caused by stray bullets and illegal fireworks, as well as homemade cannons.

Guam Police Department spokesman Officer Allan Guzman said earlier this week it's illegal to shoot guns around people.

He said depending on the circumstances, a person can get arrested for shooting a gun on New Year's Eve and can be charged with the unlawful discharge of a weapon, reckless conduct and public intoxication if they're drunk.

"You're adding intoxication along with a dangerous weapon. People at these parties, they just start pulling out their guns and shooting it and they don't realize there's kids and other people around," he said.

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