TWELVE YEARS since a bullet fired from some fool's gun fell from the sky and plunged into his head, Joey Jaskolka has had more than 50 surgeries, including 36 on his brain alone, where the round remains lodged.
His voice gravelly and halting, his body draped in a wheelchair, it was clear before he confirmed it that serious medical problems continue to torment him.
Yet yesterday, the North Wilmington man, now 23, came to Philadelphia, as he does just before New Year's every year, to issue his annual appeal that residents celebrate New Year's Eve without gunfire.
Jaskolka was just 11 when a bullet, blasted by a New Year's reveler, hit him in the head in South Philadelphia, where he was visiting his grandmother. The shooter was never found.
"Every year, every single year, we've spent time in the hospital," said Jaskolka's father Gregory, who stood by his son's side at yesterday's news conference. "The bill for this is phenomenal. [All because] somebody decided that it was cool or fun to pop off a couple rounds into the dark. Well, it's not. It's dumb, and my son unfortunately bears the scars of this occurrence. Please, put the guns away."
Joseph Jaskolka agreed: "People just don't realize that what goes up must come down."
The Jaskolkas were joined by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross, who warned that police will have a "gunshot detail," with more officers hunting down gun-blasting partyers. Shooters will face swift and severe criminal charges, from gun offenses to risking a catastrophe to aggravated assault or homicide if someone is hit by their bullets, the officials said.
"Have a good time in the house; bang pots if you want. But don't go outside and fire off weapons," Williams said.
Police reported 128 incidents of gunfire last New Year's Eve, compared with 160 the year before. Compare that with a dozen or so reports of gunfire the city typically averages on other nights, police spokesman Lt. Ray Evers said.