Bianca Pierce, surrounded by family and friends, at a vigil for her 12-year-old daughter Se'Cret, who was killed in a drive-by shooting on April 20. Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

Mourners gathered in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood Saturday afternoon for a vigil in memory of Se’Cret Pierce, the 12-year-old killed in a drive-by shooting.

Natalie Langlaise with Mothers United Against Violence led a drum beat of “put down the guns!” outside 48 Huntington St., the site of Thursday’s shooting that left two adults and a child wounded — and seventh-grader Se’Cret dead. It was Hartford’s seventh homicide this year.

The girl was sitting in a parked car as an innocent bystander when she was shot in the head, police said, and died Friday morning. The three other victims, males ages 16, 18 and 23, were expected to survive.

Loved ones, community leaders and neighbors came out to mourn the girl’s loss.

Bianca Pierce, Se’Cret’s mother, spent much of the vigil surrounded by family and draped in a blanket as she sat in a camping chair, crying with her head down. She wore a lanyard with pictures of her daughter and the words “FOREVER SE’CRET.”

“On behalf of this mother who is speechless and broken, you need to take a picture in your mind,” said the Rev. Henry Brown as he led the vigil. “This happens too often, too much. She has joined the parade of pain, and it’s a deep, dark hole that she’s falling into.”

Rev. Henry Brown of Mothers United Against Violence told the crowd that this is a time for action. “If you ain’t doing nothing, don’t say nothing,” he said. Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

“We should be standing up. Right now we should be mad. We should be angry. We should be moved to do something,” Brown said. “But here we go, standing here with the absent life of a 12-year-old child. And this ain’t the first time we was here.”

Se’Cret was a student at Milner Middle School. JoAnn Brooks, a teacher, remembered her student Se’Cret as “my little friend.”

“That was my girl — she was a fighter,” Brooks said. “We’re all out here. We’re all going to fight.”

“And we’re going to not leave this mother alone,” Brooks said.

Members of Se’Cret’s family and Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin pleaded with the community to share any information they may have about the shooter or shooters.

“And we’re just asking today: If anybody knows who did it, we’re praying for that person’s soul as well, because they gotta be something else to do something like that,” said Heidi Wilson, Se’Cret’s cousin. “And I’m asking y’all to continue to pray for us as we continue to pray for each other.”

Bronin said: “It’s not snitching when we’re talking about justice for a 12-year-old girl.”

The Rev. Sam Saylor, Se’Cret’s grandfather, reminded the crowd that the family is all-too-familiar with gun violence. Shane Oliver, Saylor’s son and Se’Cret’s father, was killed in a 2012 Hartford shooting.

“We had one of these vigils,” Saylor said. “We asked the community to stand up for justice, and a wonderful thing happened: People poured out, in an unprecedented way, information to the police. And they worked long and hard to bring something that we’ve never experienced, that is fleeting in this community.”

Rev. Sam Saylor, Se’Cret’s grandfather, sometimes struggled to speak at the vigil. He told those gathered about a GoFundMe page that had been set up to help cover funeral costs. “No one plans for the death of a 12-year-old,” he said. Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

“And at that time I wanted street justice, I wanted quick justice. But because of the hard work of the community and the commitment of the police department and elected officials, we got something better than street justice or quick justice: We got sweet justice,” Saylor said of the arrest and conviction of his son’s killer. “We want that kind of reality for Bianca and Se’Cret and this family.”

The shooting was captured on surveillance video, but the footage was grainy and police were trying to identify the suspected vehicle, Hartford Police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said at a press conference Friday. Authorities believe there were two people in the car.

HPD said Saturday there were no updates on the investigation available for release.

Langlaise, the drummer, lives across the street from where the shooting took place. She said it’s at least the third shooting on the block since she moved there in 2014, and she fears for her 14-year-old son’s safety.

“He don’t really come outside and play and stuff like that because, you know, the community is just so rough. We’ve got to stop the violence,” said Langlaise, who said she’d developed anxiety as a result of neighborhood violence.

Se’Cret’s family has launched a GoFundMe campaign meant to cover burial expenses.

Se’Cret’s mother Bianca could not bring herself to walk to the spot where her daughter died, so all those gathered walked down the street to her. Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public

Connecticut Public’s Mark Mirko, Matt Dwyer and Patrick Skahill contributed to this report.

This story was first published April 22, 2023 by Connecticut Public.