Richard Smeraldo likes being up close when watching fireworks, so he can enjoy the colors and thunderous explosions.
But the 74-year-old Clearwater man got more than he expected this Independence Day. A stray bullet pierced the bill of his baseball cap and caused facial injuries during a Fourth of July fireworks celebration in Safety Harbor.
Smeraldo was taken to Mease Countryside Hospital, where doctors discovered that a bullet from a 9 mm had gone through the bill of Smeraldo's cap, into the bridge of his nose, out his right nostril, through the upper portion of his bottom lip and exited though his lower chin.
"I was thinking what hit me was a big rock or boulder or something," Smeraldo said. "It was huge."
Smeraldo was watching the fireworks show near the Safety Harbor Spa and Marina around 9:45 p.m. when he felt something strike him in the face, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office reported.
He told deputies that he first thought he had been struck by a rock, but a friend found a bullet on the blanket next to her.
The bullet struck a medallion Smeraldo was wearing and broke the chain. Smeraldo began wearing the medallion, which has a quote from his mother, about two weeks ago.
Smeraldo received stitches and was released from the hospital.
Deputies say no arrests have been made, and an investigation continues. Smeraldo is hoping for a quick arrest.
"They need to be locked up," Smeraldo said. "They need to be punished. They need to be in some kind of program — a gun program — to educate them."
"Where do you think these bullets go?" Smeraldo asked. "They go in the air? They just disappear? No. They fall on somebody."