They Lost a Son to Gun Violence… It Claimed the Life of His Daughter 11 Years Later

In Hartford, Connecticut, family and friends held a vigil for Shane Oliver, who was shot and died during an argument, more than ten years ago. Se’Cret Pierce, his 2-year-old daughter, would have to grow up without a dad. However, she, too, would die at a young age due to a gunshot wound.

On Saturday, Oliver’s loved ones gathered once more, just kilometers away from the spot where he was shot and killed in 2012. A vigil was held this time for 12-year-old Se’Cret, who was killed in a drive-by shooting last week.

After gun violence once again tore a family apart, neighbors and friends gathered on the side of a nearby roadway to demand action. “Time and time again — too many times than we can remember and too many times than we wanted to — but here we are at this parade of pain,”  Samuel Saylor, Oliver’s father and Se’Cret’s grandpa, addressed to the gathering.

Gun Violence Killed Their Son
Gun Violence Killed Their Son

Finally, he addressed Se’Cret’s mother, Bianca Pierce, who had been sitting quietly in a chair, a lanyard of photographs of her son around her neck. “This mother has come to try to stand with you today — stand with us today — but we came to stand with you, Bianca,” Saylor continued.

“We come to stand with your family. We come to stand up for your loss, to speak up for your loss.” According to the Hartford Police Department, on April 20th, passengers in a fast car fired multiple rounds while driving along Huntington Street. Police said Se’Cret was shot in the head and abdomen while sitting in a parked car about 30 feet away.

The middle schooler was taken to Saint Francis Hospital, where she was later confirmed dead. Police say that three guys, aged 16, 18, and 23, were also shot and sent to the hospital, but that they are all expected to make full recoveries. Saylor recalled how much Se’Cret enjoyed going shopping, trying on new clothes, and modeling them for photos.

Saylor praised her self-assurance and humor, adding that she also deeply valued her family. “I never use the word ‘in a better place,’” Saylor told The Washington Post. “There’s no better place designed by God for a child to be than in the hands of his or her parents.”

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According to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as four or more people injured or killed, excluding the gunman, this incident was one of more than 170 mass shootings in the United States this year. Lt. Aaron Boisvert of the Hartford Police Department indicated during a press conference on the day of the shooting that Se’Cret was probably hit by a bullet meant for the male victims.

After Oliver’s death, Saylor and Oliver’s mother, Janet Rice, rallied for stricter gun laws and worked with local advocacy groups and rallies in Washington, DC. Saylor, though, is concerned that he did not adequately safeguard Se’Cret. “It’s crazy when we’ve been fighting for greater safety, greater peace,” Saylor said.

“It’s been 11 years of fighting, speaking out, trying to fight the laws and speaking to communities across the country. It continues to haunt us and our family and friends.” Two guys in a passing car are wanted by police, they said. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin called on the male victims to come forward with information about the perpetrators during a press conference on Friday.

“It is not acceptable not to cooperate with investigators, and it is not acceptable not to share the information you know about who took the life of a 12-year-old girl,” Bronin said. “That’s not fair to her family. … It’s not fair to her memory.”

The Hartford Courant stated that Se’Cret’s father, Oliver, and 20-year-old Luis Rodriguez got into an altercation about a lady on a road approximately three miles from where she was shot in October 2012. Oliver was shot in the back by Rodriguez. Later, Oliver passed away at Hartford Hospital, and in 2015, Rodriguez was given a 40-year prison term for his role in Oliver’s death.

Rice texted the Associated Press after her granddaughter’s murder last week, “I am ANGRY, HEARTBROKEN, and NUMB.” Rice works for Compass Youth Collaborative, a youth mentoring organization in Hartford, according to Jeremy Stein, the executive director of CT Against Gun Violence. On April 20, Rice drove to the hospital after hearing about a gunshot.

She was on her way when she got the news that Se’Cret had been hit by gunfire. Rice, according to Stein, has been in shock ever since. “I really don’t know how one does process this kind of event,” Stein said.

It’s something that shouldn’t really be happening in America, especially somebody like her and [Saylor]. They’ve dedicated their lives to ending gun violence … and now to see this kind of helplessness, this feeling of ‘What else can they do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?’ It’s hard to fathom.

Protesters gathered on Saturday to hold a vigil near the street where Se’Cret was shot, as they shouted for justice. Bianca Pierce sobbed into tissues as her loved ones consoled her from behind the speakers. Saylor felt her pain with Pierce as she observed her.

“That symphony of pain and injustice is something that I will never forget,” Saylor said of losing a child. “And it’s still going on today.” Saylor claimed in 2012 that he finally felt able to move on after confronting Rodriguez and expressing his disapproval of his actions. To the perpetrators of last week’s shootings, he offers the same hope.

Saylor doesn’t know whether he’ll ever get over the loss of his family, but he’s resolved to keep working toward his goal of eliminating gun violence. “I say now, ‘Can I ever close my eyes to this? Can I ever relax again?’” Saylor said. “That’s our life. We’re not out of this; we can’t escape this.”

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