By Tyler Vazquez, Florida Today
Burial services for Sincere Pierce at Riverview Memorial Gardens ended abruptly Saturday afternoon when an unknown gunman fired a single shot and hit the deceased’s mother.
The gunfire came as guests were paying their last respects to the 18-year-old, one of two teens killed Nov. 13 by a Brevard County deputy in Cocoa. Funeral services for the other teen killed, 16-year-old Angelo Crooms, were held Nov. 21.
As the pastor finished his prayers and Pierce’s friends and loved ones were placing flowers on his casket, a loud popping sound could be heard.
The sound of a single gunshot was followed by stunned silence before Quasheda Pierce could be heard yelling that she’d been hit. Mourners were at first slow to react before realizing what had occurred and then began rushing to nearby cars and leaving the funeral quickly.
The crowd of around 50 people panicked and left the cemetery as close friends and family of Quasheda Pierce attended to her injury.
Friends and family were able to help Quasheda Pierce into a minivan before ambulances and EMTs arrived. The nature and severity of her injuries was not immediately known. Some at the scene said she had been shot in the leg.
She lay on the ground while loved ones attempted to assist her until they were able to take her to a local hospital.
Between five and 10 minutes after the shooting, Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the scene, carrying rifles in response to multiple 911 calls.
Detectives and crime scene investigators remained at the cemetery throughout the afternoon Saturday.
The initial investigation suggests the shot was an accidental discharge from a gun carried by a 16-year-old attending the service, according to WKMG News 6, citing Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. BCSO said the bullet penetrated the 16-year-old’s leg and then struck Quasheda Pierce, the mother of the teen being buried, WKMG reported.
BCSO has not responded to numerous requests left by Florida Today for information.
Some witnesses at the scene said the gunshot came from behind a nearby tree line where some guests, including a mother holding a young baby, were standing in the shade to find respite from the heat.
A loud popping sound could be heard but it was not determined where the possible shooter was located or if Pierce herself was the intended target or if the shooting was intentional at all.
No further details were immediately available on who may have carried out the shooting or why. Brevard County deputies had cordoned off the crime scene Saturday as they continued to investigate.
The Nov. 13 shooting deaths of Pierce and Crooms had left their families and the public with many unanswered questions about why Brevard County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda fired multiple shots into the car when the teens didn’t pull over. Ivey had said the deputies thought the vehicle might have been stolen, but the teens’ families and lawyer, Natalie Jackson, said they had permission to use the car and called it a case of mistaken identity.
The teens deaths captured national interest, with well-known civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump working on behalf of the families in what he called a bid for justice.
Earlier, Sheriff Wayne Ivey released dash cam footage from the Nov. 13 shooting that showed the teens pulling into a driveway after being followed by two BCSO cars without lights. Crooms, who was driving, then backed out of the driveway and drove forward in the direction of a deputy, who, gun drawn, repeatedly shouted at the teen to stop the car. Ivey wrote in a Facebook post that the deputy “was then forced to fire his service weapon in an attempt to stop the deadly threat of the car from crashing into him.”
The teens’ families and lawyers contend the dashcam footage shows Crooms trying to evade the deputy — not hit him.
Sincere Pierce’s aunt, Cynthia Byrd-Green, spoke mournfully about the passing of the teenager whom she raised since infancy only moments before the eruption of more violence Saturday.
“I’m hurt, I’m depressed. It’s just wrong. It’s so wrong. My baby’s not here. He’s gone from a senseless tragedy,” she said just before the gunshot could be heard.
Brevard County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on the investigation of Saturday’s shooting.
This article originally appeared on USA Today.