61-year-old woman fatally hit with possible celebratory gunfire in Harris County

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HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A tragic end to the new year celebration for a north Harris County family after a woman was struck and killed by what investigators believe was celebratory gunfire.

The incident happened just after midnight Wednesday in the Laurel Oaks subdivision, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office. The victim has been identified as Philippa Ashford, 61.

"It's a cul-de-sac street and several members were out celebrating the new year, were setting off fireworks, when the 61-year-old female called out that she thought she'd been shot," HCSO Sgt. Ben Beall said.

EMS and Harris County Precinct 4 constable deputies responded to the incident.  Ashford was pronounced dead at the scene. She died from a single gunshot wound.

Investigators searched the cul-de-sac and surrounding streets but did not find any shell casings. They believe the shot came from a distance farther away.

“I don’t even know that you could figure what the odds are, but you’ve got the family together. They’re out here celebrating the new year, and basically, the matriarch of the family is now deceased,” Beall said.

Ashford worked as a nurse manager at the Menninger Clinic, a special psychiatric hospital. She had been with the clinic for more than 12 years. In an official statement, the staff said she was both a leader and a mentor on the nursing team.

"Our hearts go out to her family and friends at this very sad time and we offer our support and deepest sympathy. Menninger will hold a memorial service to honor Philippa, whose loss as a talented professional and friend will be felt by all of us here at Menninger and across our local mental health community," the statement read in part.

Several miles away, at a location on Hopper Street in north Houston, investigators said a second person was also struck by celebratory gunfire. The victim, a man, was outside with his roommate when a bullet hit his arm a few minutes after the stroke of midnight.

He's expected to be OK, officials said.

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