61-Year-Old Woman Killed By Celebratory New Year's Gunfire

by Valerie Williams
ABC13 Houston/Youtube

She was a nurse in a crisis psychiatric unit and the matriarch of her family

A 61-year-old Houston, Texas woman was shot and killed by what appears to have been celebratory gunfire shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve. She was outside with her family when a stray bullet struck her one minute into the year 2020.

Philippa Ashford was outside with friends and family, setting off fireworks and ringing in the new year, when, according to investigators, Ashford clutched her body and said, “I think I’ve been shot.”

She was pronounced dead at the scene according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Ed Gonazlez says the bullet seems to have come from gunfire just outside of Ashford’s immediate neighborhood.

In a statement to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ben Beall said there’s no indication that anyone in the cul-de-sac where Ashford’s family was celebrating had fired guns that night. Police found no shell casings at the scene. Earlier that night, the sheriff’s office even warned against revelers using their firearms for celebratory reasons. “Using your firearm irresponsibly is dangerous and could get you in a lot of trouble. If you hear gunshots at any time, call 911 immediately,” their tweet read.

According to a spokesperson from The Menniger Clinic, Ashford was a nurse manager for their acute stabilization unit, which is in the crisis psychiatric branch, and had worked at the facility for over 15 years. In her role, Ashford mentored resident nurses and was in charge of 25 other nurses. She was board certified in psychiatric nursing and served as an adjunct professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

A neighbor told ABC 13 that Ashford and her family came outside right around midnight and within 10 minutes of the tragedy, law enforcement had arrived. Beall says, “I don’t know you can even figure what the odds are. You’ve got the family together, celebrating the new year and now the matriarch of the family is deceased.”

Now, a family is without a beloved member. A psychiatric unit is without a skilled nurse and mentor. The world is without another innocent person going about her life when gunfire ended it. The year 2020 is only two days in and already, 183 people have died by gun violence. Ashford is one of those people and now, 183 families are starting the new year missing a loved one. This is completely unacceptable. When will enough be enough?

The investigation is ongoing.