Drive-by shooting kills 12-year-old bystander, leaves three wounded

Hartford police say the shooter or shooters appeared to target three males who were standing on a sidewalk Thursday night. The girl was was shot in her head as she sat in a parked car

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Customers shop for handguns at the Des Moines Fairgrounds Gun Show at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. March 11, 2023JONATHAN ERNST (REUTERS)

Bullets sprayed out from a speeding car in Connecticut’s capital, killing an innocent 12-year-old bystander and wounding three other people who have have rap sheets that include gun crimes, authorities said Friday.

The suspects in the drive-by shooting appeared to target three males who were standing on a sidewalk on a residential street not far from downtown Hartford shortly after 8:30 p.m. Thursday, city police said.

Secret Pierce, a seventh grader at Milner Middle School, became Hartford’s seventh homicide victim of the year. She was sitting in a parked car when she was shot in the head, police said. She died Friday morning. The three other victims, males ages 16, 18 and 23, were expected to survive.

“This is a painful day in our community,” Mayor Luke Bronin said at a morning news conference outside police headquarters. “I don’t have the words. I want to say to Secret’s mom and loved ones that we all are so deeply sorry. That we are with them today in grief, in prayer and with love. ... A tragedy like this ripples outward in a community and affects so many.”

Police Lt. Aaron Boisvert said Secret was an innocent bystander. “Very tragic. Very unfortunate. Sickening,” he said.

Investigators searched for the suspects Friday. The shooting was captured on surveillance video, but the footage was grainy and police were trying to identify the suspected vehicle, Boisvert said. Authorities believe there were two people in the car.

It was not immediately clear why the three males were targeted.

Bronin said all three were known to police because they had extensive criminal histories that included firearms arrests. He said it appeared one of the surviving victims was on probation, and another was awaiting adjudication for a firearm offense.

The mayor urged the three victims to cooperate with police.

“I believe they know who fired the bullets that killed a 12-year-old girl,” Bronin said. “And it is not acceptable not to cooperate with investigators. ... That’s not fair to her family. That’s not fair to her loved ones. It’s not fair to her memory, It’s not fair to our community.”

City schools Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said at the news conference that counseling and other support services were being offered at Secret’s school and other schools across the district.

“When a tragedy happens such as this one, it does have wide ripples,” she said. “And to us, Secret was one of our beautiful and very capable students. And we have activated all of our crisis support teams.

“Trauma is not foreign to us in Hartford and in Hartford public schools,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “So it’s really hard for us to compartmentalize or separate when events happen. And so while we are going to galvanize all of our support and our partners, dealing with the trauma is an extended process.”

Several children, nearly all of them teens, have been fatally shot in Hartford over the past several years. Two years ago, 3-year-old Randell Jones was shot to death while in a car with family members during a drive-by shooting. Police believe a man in Randell’s car was the intended target. The court cases of two teens charged in Randell’s death remain pending.

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