Teen performer at inaugural events fatally shot

National

Teen performer at inaugural events fatally shot

Posted: Updated:

Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor

CHICAGO (AP) — A 15-year-old girl who had performed in President Barack Obama's inauguration festivities is the latest face on the ever-increasing homicide toll in the president's hometown, killed in a Chicago park as she talked with friends by a gunman who apparently was not even aiming at her.

Chicago police said Hadiya Pendleton was in a park about a mile from Obama's home in a South Side neighborhood Tuesday afternoon when a man opened fire on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back as she tried to escape.

The city's 42nd slaying is part of Chicago's bloodiest January in more than a decade, following on the heels of 2012, which ended with more than 500 homicides for the first time since 2008. It also comes at a time when Obama, spurred by the Connecticut elementary school massacre in December, is actively pushing for tougher gun laws.

Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, spoke Wednesday at a Chicago police news conference, which was held in the same park where his daughter died.

"He took the light of my life," Pendleton said. He then spoke directly to the killer: "Look at yourself, just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person." Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy consoled him, the girl's mother and 10-year-old brother.

Hadiya was a bright kid who was killed just as she was "wondering about which lofty goal she wanted to achieve," her godfather, Damon Stewart, told The Associated Press. Hadiya had been a majorette with the King College Prep band.

"She was a very active kid, doing dance, cheerleading, who felt like she could accomplish just about anything, a very good student who had big dreams about what she wanted to be, a doctor, an attorney," said Stewart, a Chicago police officer and attorney. "She was constantly getting good grades."

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president and the first lady's "thoughts and prayers are with" the teen's family, adding: "And as the president has said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country, but if we can save any one child's life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence."

In Chicago, gangs routinely and often indiscriminately open fire. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and McCarthy are pushing for tougher local, state and national gun laws and longer prison sentences for offenders.

About three blocks from Hadiya's school, she and a group of 10-12 young people, including members of her volleyball team, had taken refuge under a canopy at a park to avoid the rain Tuesday afternoon. A man climbed a fence behind the park, ran at the group and started shooting, and then jumped back over the fence and into a white Nissan. The group scattered, but Hadiya was shot once in the back and a teenage boy was shot in the leg.

Police said Hadiya had no arrest record and there was no indication she was a member of a gang or was the gunman's target. In fact, McCarthy said there are no indications that anyone in the group was gang-affiliated. He said the police suspect that the gunman may be a member of a gang that considers the park its turf and that he mistook somebody in the group as someone from an encroaching rival gang.

McCarthy vowed to put a police officer at the park "24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year" if that is what it takes to show the gang that the park belongs to no one but the community.

Comments by both Stewart and the girl's father echo the message that city officials have long said: Gun violence is not confined to street corners in dangerous neighborhoods. Obama's neighborhood, Kenwood, is just north of the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.

"Her parents had done everything right and she was doing everything right," he said. Stewart, who was 12 when his own brother was shot and killed, said his family and Pendleton's family were so close that his own children saw the 15-year-old as an older sister.

"The worst thing in the world was when yesterday I had to sit there and tell my children that their sister is gone," he said.

  • Email Alert Sign Up

    Sign up here to receive breaking news stories from KSWT.com and morning updates to your email inbox.

    * denotes required fields


    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.

KSWT-TV Affiliates

Go to KSWT-TV's Facebook page
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    Yuma Shooting Victim Identified; Vigil Held

    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who diedMore >>
    YUMA - Friends and family gathered outside Jimmie Dee's bar Sunday night to say goodbye to Frank Salazar, Jr. Yuma police are confirming the identification of the 28-year-old shooting victim, who died outside the local bar early Friday morning.More >>
  • Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    Coming soon...Wal-Mart

    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
    On Wednesday the Yuma City Council voted to change the zoning designation on the proposed land acquired by Wal-Mart. The property located near the intersection of Avenue B and 8th Street was the home of a mobile home park as zones for residential use; the new designation changes that to mixed which will allow the new store to move in to the property. The new store will be the fifth Wal-Mart for Yuma County.More >>
  • Out with the old...

    Out with the old...

    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
    It has been a staple in the Yuma community since the early 70's and the place to meet for the young and old alike. The Southgate Mall now sits on broken asphalt and bares the scares of more than 40 years; decades being passed from owner to owner and now it's set to be torn down to make way for a new more improved shopping center. Today the building has been stripped from within to make way for demolition equipment to tear down the center portion of the mall. Stores like Sear, Burlington and t...More >>
  • California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    California firm issues nationwide fruit recall

    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.More >>
  • Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    Woman arrested to allegedly smuggling drugs into Calipatria State Prison

    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visitingMore >>
    CALIPATRIA, CA - A woman visiting an inmate at a local prison winds up behind bars herself for trying to smuggle in drugs. Calipatria State Prison officials say 25-year-old Veronica Delgado was visiting an inmate in facility C yesterday, when an officer noticed something in her mouth. More >>
  • National

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Obama warns of delay in social sec. checks and veteran's benefits

    Web Producer: Lucy Valencia, Assignment Desk Editor WASHINGTON (AP) -- Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits willMore >>
    Declaring "we are not a deadbeat nation," President Obama warned on Monday that Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed if congressional Republicans fail to increase the government's borrowing authority in a looming showdown over the nation's debt and spending.More >>
  • Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials: Rebar spikes placed on forest roads

    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
    Officials say someone is placing sharpened rebar spikes around Forest Service roads in Arizona.More >>
  • Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Website ranks Yuma # 1 for worst place in the U.S. for singles

    Yuma, AZ - People having trouble finding a date or significant other could blame the local economy according to one website. More >>