Stray bullet comes through Palo Alto roof


A bullet that was likely fired in the air in celebration of New Year's Eve in East Palo Alto came down through the roof of a Palo Alto home in the 500 block of Hilbar Lane.

The street is located near Edgewood Drive and San Francisquito Creek.

The bullet was fired between 11 p.m. New Year's Eve and 12:30 a.m. New Year's Day, Palo Alto Police Sgt. Sandra Brown said.

The bullet came through the ceiling of a bedroom without injuring anyone, she said. The daughter of the homeowners was at a party and not in her room at the time.

East Palo Alto reported between 20 and 25 shots fired on New Year's Eve night in celebration of the new year, Capt. John Chalmers said. That city recently installed a shot-detector system that records the location of all gunshots fired within city limits.

-- Don Kazak


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Posted by GMC
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm

This seems like a good show idea for mythbusters. It is surprising that it came through the ceiling. It must have had a shallow trajectory. You would think a bullet fired towards the sky would expend all of its energy from the gunpowder, then begin a free-fall back to earth. A 200 grain .45 caliber round weighs approximately .4 ounces. Here's where I need the assistance of some Stanford types who remember their physics classes. Something that weighs about 12 grams traveling at terminal velocity - could it really pierce the roof of a typical house? It reminds me of the penny falling off of the Sears Tower problem. I'm not saying it didn't happen - I mean if they found the bullet inside their house it got their somehow, but I'd just like to understand the physics of that.
If the path were more shallow, the bullet would hit the apex of its arc and lose some energy but not all, then would it pick up speed on the way down?
In any case, people who fire guns in the air are dangerous morons, and belong in jail.

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Posted by ask cecil
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:05 pm

A good answer, I think:

Web Link

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Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:23 pm

About five years ago around New Years a stray bullet came through the roof of my lanai. There wasn't much the Police could do about it, but obviously around New Years people are celebrating and shooting into the air. My Husband repaired the hole in the roof. End of story!!!

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Posted by I watch too much TV
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 3, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Mythbusters did do an episode on that, they even interviewed a Stanford professor who studies it. I won’t spoil the ending for you...

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Posted by Charles
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 3, 2008 at 6:09 pm

I love how this article simply concludes the shot came from East Palo Alto. Granted, this has been more of a EPA/Redwood City issue than surrounding cities but I think "news" stories should be careful to show how they reach their conclusions. Hopefully, this will not become a habit for this online newspaper that I have come to enjoy.

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Posted by Jack Robbins
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2008 at 4:49 am

Did the bullet come with a tag declaring where it came from?

The probability is there though, I won't deny it. Probable, yes. Factual statement, not guaranteed.

To answer GMC, yes, it's possible even without a shallow trajectory, as long as the bullet is not fired straight up, it will continue to spin and travel along it's arc. It will follow it's path, like the arc of a football. If it loses momentum on the way up and comes down, it's nothing more than a piece of metal. If it continues along it's path, still spinning, it still has quite a bit of energy left in it. All gravity did was change the angle and the direction, even if the angle is sharp.

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Posted by Read the article?
a resident of Triple El
on Jan 4, 2008 at 8:35 am


Did we read the same article? If the writer had assumed what you say, I'd be concerned too, but it looks to me like they had police reports based on evidence of 20-25 shots in EPA, and apparently none in PA. Based on that info, where would you conclude the bullet came from?

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Posted by Charles
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 4, 2008 at 6:40 pm

First, the article does not say that there were no shots reported in Palo Alto. Second, I believe it is one thing for you or I to make flippant conclusions or associations but I hold journalist to a higher standard. To be fair, the author used "likely" but I think such a statement requires a clearer connection between the result (bullet in a house) and the act (some knucklehead firing a gun within EPA). The point I was trying to make is that it is simply a bad habit for news organization to quickly make conclusions in such a way. It would be similar to the author reporting a DUI fatality on Willow Road and assuming the driver was coming from Palo Alto because there were over 100 DUI arrests made in that city over the holiday weekend. Seems to make sense proximity wise and the number of bars/restaurants of Palo Alto. But would that be OK? As a citizen of EPA, I am well aware of the challenges facing out little town but I want our journalist to be careful before they pull the trigger (pun intended) on the conclusions/associations made in their stories.

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