CLEVELAND (WJW) – As New Year’s Eve approaches, law enforcement is reminding residents of the dangers of celebratory gunfire. 

Cleveland police are warning residents not to shoot firearms into the air at the stroke of midnight, but a local family, left grief-stricken, has a more personal story to tell.

Cleveland police remind everyone that celebratory gunfire is very dangerous and the consequences can be significant, serious and deadly. They also say despite changes to state law, fireworks are illegal to possess and discharge in the City of Cleveland without a permit.

“New Year’s Eve has forever been changed for our family. We can never really celebrate the way we have in the past,” said former Cleveland city councilman Matt Zone.

Zone speaks about a New Year’s Eve family tragedy, hoping it will help others.

“It had just struck midnight, January 1, 2020,” he recalls.

Matt Zone’s niece, 31-year-old Erika Miranda, and her boyfriend, Sheldon Stevens, Jr., were hosting a house party to celebrate the new year.

“Her boyfriend felt the need to ring in the new year and pulled out his revolver and went downstairs, fired off a bunch of rounds and he wanted to give her the gun to do it and she was reluctant to do it. The gun discharged and she was struck with a bullet right in her chest,” Zone said.

Erika died from her injuries.

Her boyfriend, now 42, is serving a four-year sentence for reckless homicide, involuntary manslaughter, using weapons while intoxicated and failure to secure dangerous ordnance.

“Erika was just incredible, vivacious, beautiful, caring, loving, a family member that everyone always wanted to be around and to take her away from us, it’s hard,” said Zone.

“It doesn’t matter how experienced you think you are at handling a weapon, you should not be discharging it in the city. Bad things can happen and our family suffered the ultimate sacrifice of losing a beautiful, 31-year old vibrant woman. Just don’t shoot it off in the air. Those bullets come down somewhere,” Zone said.

Zone reminds everyone that life is precious and can be lost in the blink of an eye. His message is to celebrate responsibly.

“She’s not with us this year. It’s going to be a hard New Year’s Eve this year for sure,” said Zone.

According to the state website, Sheldon is scheduled to be released from prison on Dec. 30, 2023.

Cleveland police say safety forces will be on duty across Cleveland neighborhoods this New Year’s Eve. They say although police, fire and EMS crews will be alert, they remind residents that safety starts at home, in your own neighborhood.