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Fatal shooting of 15-year-old turns national spotlight on Chicago

Updated: March 2, 2013 11:40AM



President Barack Obama and the first lady are praying for the family of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who attended the president’s inauguration and was fatally shot Tuesday less than a mile from his Kenwood home.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he was unaware of a petition urging Obama to attend Hadiya’s funeral.

Carney did say the first family’s “thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton,” who attended inauguration festivities and performed as a baton-twirling majorette with her King College Prep school band at a party sponsored by U.S. Rep Danny K. Davis.

The national attention to Hadiya’s killing came as Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy pledged Wednesday to find the gunman who fired into a group of Hadiya’s friends as they sought shelter during a rain storm in a park on the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue in the North Kenwood neighborhood. A 16-year-old boy was shot in the leg during the attack and a teenage girl had a graze wound in her ankle.

A reward totaling $11,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the killer. Police encouraged anyone with information on the shooting to call (312) 747-8382. The Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church put $5,000 toward the reward and called it “a bounty out on the head of the killer, before you kill somebody else.”

Correcting initial police reports, McCarthy said that the friends Hadiya was with when she was shot were not gang members.

“Every indication points to the fact that none of the individuals in the group were involved in any sort of criminal activity,” McCarthy said at a Wednesday news conference. “These were good kids by everything that I learned. . . . Wrong place at the wrong time.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the gunman a “punk” Wednesday and reached out to Hadiya’s parents, Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton.

“Nothing can break your heart more — and I did it just to call as a parent so they know they’re not alone. But, nothing pains you more than calling a fellow parent, trying to comfort them,” the mayor said haltingly, his voice filled with emotion.

“You read about Hadiya. . . . You look at her. You look at how she talked about her future. She took her final exams. She had dreams. And this gang-banger, this punk took that away from Cleopatra. They took it away from Hadiya. . . . They took it away from the city of Chicago. She is what is best in our city. A child going to school who takes a final exam, who had just been to the inaugural.”

The mayor then encouraged anyone with information about Hadiya’s death to come forward.

“I want everybody to take a moment and think of Cleopatra and her family and to think of Hadiya. . . . The good news is [the boy who was shot] is eager to get back to school. The bad news is that Hadiya can’t.”

Emanuel visited the Pendleton home for about an hour Wednesday evening to offer condolences to the family.

Hadiya’s relatives said she was with members of her volleyball team when she was shot in the back about three blocks from her school. Hadiya had just finished school exams and was out of school early.

She was planning a trip to Paris this summer, said her father, Nathaniel Pendleton, 42.

Hadiya, who dreamed of being an attorney, bought a commemorative cup at the inauguration for her dad but never got the chance to give it to him.

“Her mother told me where it is,” said Nathaniel Pendleton, a chef who lives with his wife and one other child — a 10-year-old boy — in Bronzeville.

“They took the light of my life. . . . She was destined for great things, and you stripped that from her,” he said.

Hadiya’s cousin and classmate, Zakiya Bedford, 17, said she had a mean volleyball spike and loved books, Beyonce Knowles and lip gloss, and most of all playing with her little brother, Nathaniel Jr. “She’d flick his ear and he’d grab her nose,” she said.

“She was a wonderful student, she was well-loved by her friends, well-adored by her teachers,” said King Prep Principal Shontae Higginbottom.

Residents on the block where Hadiya was killed — including the CEO of a credit union, the wife of a clinical psychologist and a former Chicago Sun-Times journalist — were surprised by the violence and said the well-kept street is usually quiet and peaceful.

“Anybody who thinks that this territory belongs to a gang is wrong,” McCarthy said. “If I have to put a policeman here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365, we’re going to make a point that this territory belongs to the community.”

After the shooting, Hadiya ’s godfather, Chicago Police Officer Damon Stewart, said: “As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy. . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman



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