Relatives defend Hadiya’s alleged killer
BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporteremail@example.com February 13, 2013 1:32PM
Janise Cooper, the aunt of Michael Ward, the alleged gunman charged with murdering gifted King College Prep student Hadiya Pendleton, admitted Wednesday her nephew had made âsome mistakesâ in the past. | Rummana Hussain~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 13, 2013 6:26PM
The aunt of the alleged gunman charged with murdering gifted King College Prep student Hadiya Pendleton admitted Wednesday her nephew had made “some mistakes” in the past.
Janise Cooper repeatedly said the “truth will come out” in Hadiya’s slaying but when asked if she thinks Michael Ward will ultimately be found innocent she said, “I’m not going to say that.”
Cooper and Ward’s cousin Eliel Brown, 20, defended their relative to reporters after Ward and his co-defendant Kenneth Williams, 20, appeared at a brief afternoon hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse .
Ward, 18, waved at his relatives before being led back to the lock-up by Cook County sheriff’s deputies.
“Our family is torn apart just like that the young lady’s family is torn apart,” Cooper said outside court.
Both Cooper and Brown brushed off allegations that Ward was a gang member.
Ward, a father of one, is a “loving family” man and “good at heart,” they said.
Ward was looking for rival gang members when he shot at Hadiya, 15, and her classmates in a South Side park in the 4400 block of South Oakenwald on Jan. 29, Cook County prosecutors said.
Just a week before, the teen was in Washington D.C. performing as a baton-twirling majorette at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
First Lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral last weekend and on Tuesday, the president mentioned Hadiya in his State of the Union address.
“Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house,” said Barack Obama during his address.
Ward and Williams will be back in court on March 1.
Ward has 2011 unlawful use of a weapon conviction. He also has a juvenile record for robbery, theft and aggravated battery.
“He has made some mistakes in the past and we are not disputing that,” Cooper, 43, said Wednesday.
“We know at some point Michael is going to come up out of this. …We’re just praying that the truth will come out. The truth will come out.”
Cooper pronounced Ward’s first name as “Mikael” but didn’t know how to spell it. Court records have Ward’s name as “Michael, Mickael and Michaeil.”