One of the last things anyone expects to have happen to them is for a stray bullet to hit them while they’re in bed.
But for Jason Byrd, it happened barely a minute into the new year at his home on Pete Brittain Road. According to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, Byrd was shot in the ankle but did not suffer life-threatening injuries.
His wife, Holly Byrd, recalled the moments leading up to the shot. She said her family didn’t have any plans for New Year’s Eve, and that she was getting ready for bed when Jason was shot.
“I had heard a pop as I was coming through the living room into the bedroom,” Holly said. “I thought one of the kids had a party popper and had went in the bedroom and pranked my husband with a party popper saying ‘happy New Year.’”
She said she saw a puff of smoke, but still thought it was just a party popper.
“I barely stepped a foot into the bedroom and my husband just hollers out: ‘I’ve been shot. Somebody just shot me!” Holly said.
From there, things got a little chaotic.
“(He) got up off of the bed, went out into the living room and didn’t make it four, five steps in the living room and fell out in the floor,” Holly said. “I bent down and pulled his pant leg up and the first thing I saw was the slug under his skin sticking out of the back of his leg.”
After taking a moment to collect herself, she grabbed a towel and put it on his leg while her soon-to-be son-in-law called 911 and kept the situation as calm as possible.
“God love him, he was the cool head through the whole thing,” Holly said. “He grabbed his phone right out, called 911, got me a dry towel, just talking real calm to everybody. He definitely kept everybody else here calm for sure.”
It only took a few moments for sheriff’s deputies to arrive, with first responders and an EMS crew quickly following, Holly said.
“Jason, he started going really pale really quick, started going into shock,” Holly said. “But the ambulance got here fairly quickly, and the police showed up before the ambulance got here. But thank God, they said if it had been just a couple inches up higher on his leg, it would have severed an artery and he would have bled out before the ambulance even got here.”
Jason was taken to Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge-Morganton and later transferred to a hospital in Asheville, Holly said.
Now, Jason is resting at home while they wait for the bone to heal with the bullet still in his leg.
“They said honestly, if it heals just fine without any problems, they’ll probably leave the bullet in because it may cause more damage to take it out,” Holly said.
The bullet came into the house through a wall when it hit Jason, BCSO said in a press release Thursday.
BCSO has urged safety when shooting firearms.
“Always have a sufficient backstop to stop the bullets when target practicing, hunting, etc.,” the release said. “Never shoot into the air when you cannot predict where and what the bullets will be striking when they come back to the ground.”
It’s something Holly is hopeful people will take to heart.
“I’m not originally from here, but I’ve lived here in Burke County for over 20 years, so I know how people tend to celebrate in this area,” she said. “But a lot of them aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and they don’t think about what’s going up has got to come down somewhere.
“People want to shoot your guns off on New Year’s, more than happy, knock yourself out, have a great time. Just do it in a safer way. I mean, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, especially with any kind of firearm.”
She recalled some advice her dad has given in the past.
“My dad always was a person that said, ‘Be as smart as you can about being stupid,’ so people should probably think about that a little bit,” Holly said.
She said she’s not against guns, but reiterated that people need to be cautious when using them.
“I just think ... people need to really think about what it is they’re doing,” Holly said. “If you’re with a group of people that are drinking on New Year’s Eve, obviously the last thing that needs to come into play is any type of firearm. If you want to hear a gunshot ... then choose somebody that’s not been drinking the whole night.”
Jason was lucky when it came to where the bullet hit.
“If he had been bending over or sitting on the end of the bed, it (would have) clipped him in the chest or in the side of his head,” Holly said. “We keep my 5-month-old grandson quite often, and I thought, ‘Jesus God, thank God he wasn’t here that night.’”
Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call the Burke County Sheriff’s Office at 828-438-5500 or Morganton/Burke Crimestoppers at 828-437-3333. Crimestoppers tips are anonymous, and anyone with information leading to an arrest may receive a cash reward.