Two ordered held without bail in Hadiya Pendleton murder
By RUMMANA HUSSAIN AND MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporters February 12, 2013 12:20PM
Michael Ward, top, and Kenneth Williams, bottom, are charged in the shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, left.
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:26AM
The gunman who allegedly killed Hadiya Pendleton in a South Side park chalked her death up to the collateral damage of an ongoing three-year gang war, telling police the 15-year-old girl had “nothing to do with it. She was simply there.”
In bond court Tuesday, Cook County prosecutors said Michael Ward, 18, made the comments to police in a videotaped confession after he was taken into custody along with his alleged getaway driver, Kenneth Williams, 20. Both men were denied bail.
The two were arrested while driving to a strip club in Harvey on Saturday, the same day first lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral of the King College Prep student. Hadiya performed as a baton-twirling majorette at festivities surrounding President Barack Obama’s inauguration in the nation’s capital with her school band the week before she was killed.
Both men are charged with first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
The men were driving around in Ward’s mom’s white Nissan on Jan. 29 looking for rival gang members when they encountered Hadiya and her friends, who’d just finished school exams and had sought shelter from the rain under a canopy at the park on the 4400 block of South Oakenwald, authorities said. None in the group had gang ties.
Ward snuck up on the teens and allegedly fired six shots — striking Hadiya in the back, and wounding two other teens.
Ward, who’d lost a friend in the gang feud, later tried to rationalize the shooting by telling police, “If we keep standing for this, we are going to be some straight bitches,” said assistant state’s attorney Jennifer Sexton.
Speaking on the loss of his friend, Ward told police, “It hurt, it hurt. It hurt to a point where everyone had to go,” prosecutors said.
Ward’s alleged accomplice and wheelman had been shot in the arm in July but refused to help police prosecute the man police arrested for the crime, police said.
“They go driving around looking for gang members, but that’s not who gets shot,” said State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “Who gets shot are three innocent kids. It’s just an example of what happens when someone decides to take it on their own to get revenge for something that had happened to them.”
The Nissan was captured by surveillance cameras before and after the shooting and cell records show that Williams was in the park at the time of the murder, prosecutors said.
Williams, a King College Prep graduate, had a previous conviction for retail theft.
Ward, who had a 2011 unlawful use of a weapon conviction, also has a juvenile record for robbery, theft and aggravated battery, prosecutors said.
Alvarez touched upon the need for stricter gun laws and how Ward was able to skip prison time for his weapons violation based on his age.
Ward was arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespass late last year, but the probation department did not notify prosecutors, Alvarez said.
Mistakes were made, Alvarez said following the hearing.
Ward is currently taking courses at Malcolm X College and works as a janitor for a temp agency, his attorney Jeffrey Granich said.
Granich said a warrant was never issued before Ward was arrested, and that his pleas for an attorney during his 48 hours in police custody were ignored.
“This is a serious criminal case. This is not a political situation. This is not a political platform. The problem when criminal cases get made into political cases is rules are bent, mistakes are made ...,” Granich said.
Williams’ attorney Matthew McQuaid said his client is not in a gang, did not make any statements implicating himself in the murder to detectives and is employed by an air courier service at O’Hare Airport. He added that Williams was not identified in a lineup.
Family friends of Hadiya’s relatives said they were happy Ward and Williams are locked up but said they were frustrated by the violence that is enveloping the city.
“They need to be off the streets,” said David Smith, a family friend. “These guys were running around hunting for people, just anybody. It really didn’t matter.”