Within the first 15 minutes of the new year, Baltimore police shot and wounded three men who they say pointed guns at them during an effort to arrest people celebrating the new year by firing their weapons.
The 150 Baltimore police officers - most in plain clothes - assigned to the initiative seized 113 weapons and arrested 99 people, many of whom were charged with handgun violations, police said.
"People have made this an unspoken tradition in Baltimore," said police spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella.
Police nationwide have stressed the danger of firing a weapon into the air. Across the country, from Miami to St. Louis to Los Angeles, police have begun similar New Year's Eve enforcement initiatives.
Despite the stepped-up enforcement in Baltimore this year, 19-year-old Ferra Diggs was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center yesterday morning after a stray bullet lodged in her forehead as she watched the fireworks display at the Inner Harbor, police said.
Police did not say where Diggs lives, and they have not identified the shooter.
Diggs was in good condition yesterday afternoon after the bullet was removed, police said.
"As indicated by this lady, this is a very dangerous, reckless and irresponsible tradition," Averella said.
In a similar incident in 1995 in New Orleans, Amy Silberman, 31, died after being hit in the head by a falling bullet while she watched the city's annual fireworks display. As a result, New Orleans police, like those in Baltimore, have increased efforts to crack down on the illegal firing of weapons on New Year's Eve in recent years.
During one of the largest of the operations in Baltimore, on New Year's Eve 1999, police confiscated 122 guns and arrested more than 100 people who had randomly fired their weapons, police said.
This is the first year the effort has resulted in shootings involving police, Averella said.
In the first incident, shortly after midnight yesterday, three plainclothes officers in East Baltimore heard gunfire in the 2200 block of Prentiss Place.
Officers spotted a man firing a .22-caliber revolver into the air. After the officers identified themselves, the man pointed the gun at Detective Christopher Nyberg, police said. Nyberg, 30, a five-year veteran of the department, shot the man in the head.
Rufus Gholson III, 31, of Halethorpe is being treated for a graze wound to the head at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he was in fair condition yesterday evening, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Officers recovered a revolver, a shotgun and ammunition at the scene, police said.
Minutes later, in Southwest Baltimore, Officer Kenneth Jeffries, 33, a nine-year veteran of the department, shot two armed men in the 3200 block of Clifton Ave., police said.
Four officers had traced gunfire to that area and repeatedly ordered the two men to drop their weapons, police said. Instead, both men pointed their weapons at Jeffries, police said. A .38-caliber revolver and .25-caliber shell casings were recovered at the scene, police said.
James Andrews, 20, of the 500 block of Fulton Ave. was struck in the chest and left thigh, police said. Kevin Jarrell, 37, also of the 500 block of Fulton Ave., was hit in the left thigh, police said.
Both are being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, police said.
Police expect to charge the three men upon their release from the hospitals, Averella said.