Two young men were arrested Saturday night on 67th Street and Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, Ill., for the murder of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. According to a CNN report, 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams, are now charged with one count of first-degree murder each in the teen’s death and two counts of attempted murder each for the two teens who were wounded in the shooting. Additional charges of aggravated battery with a firearm were also filed.
Pendleton, who performed with her school band at President Obama’s recent inauguration, was gunned down on Tuesday, Jan. 29, as she and friends were sheltering the rain in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on Chicago's South side, after taking early exams.
NBC News reported that teenaged Ward was the shooter who reportedly confessed to police that he killed Hadiya by mistake. He and his accomplice Williams thought Pendleton and her friends were from a rival gang who had shot Williams last year.
Pendleton’s mom Cleopatra Cowley is said to be “ecstatic” about the arrests and hopes the two suspects are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. She told NBC News that they have taken her daughter, whom she had put so much into raising, away from her family, and away from her little brother. Cowley added that though Ward and Williams may rot in jail, they would still be alive but her daughter is not.
Her father Nathaniel Pendleton reportedly said he was thankful to God that the two charged were off the streets, which would prevent "this from happening to another innocent person."
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said the arrest of Pendleton’s accused killers was as a result of “relentless police work” and not because of any tips from the community. He added that though they did receive many tips, none of them panned out and they did not get the help they needed from "the targeted audience."
McCarthy said that this crime did not have to occur, for the killer, Michael Ward was arrested on January 2011 for the unlawful use of a firearm and that if mandatory minimums existed in the state of Illinois, Ward would not have been on the streets to "commit this heinous act."
Chief McCarthy also hopes this case which has garnered national attention, helps catapult change in the city’s gun laws.
The King College Prep honor student was laid to rest Saturday with a huge outpouring from the community and beyond, including the first lady. There had been a loud plea for President Obama to attend the teen’s funeral but Michelle Obama attended instead. The president, who has come under increasing fire from critics who say he has ignored, and continue to ignore the rampant gun violence in his city, will reportedly finally visit Chicago Friday.
Cowley and family were invited to attend Tuesday State of the Union address, as the Obama administration tries to get additional gun control legislation passed. The shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., and Pendleton’s murder have ignited frenzied debates and hearings on escalating gun violence across the US.
Civil Rights leader and activist Rev. Jesse Jackson held a march and rally last Saturday in Chicago in honor of the slain teen and called on President Obama to send in Homeland Security to restore order and safety to the communities on the violent South side.
As president Obama gets ready to give his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the issue of gun violence and gun control hovers heavily over his administration. Family members of victims of both high profile cases---the Newtown Conn. mass shooting and Chicago's honor student killing--will be guests in Washington at Tuesday's address.
Hadiya Pendleton's alleged killers were arrested on the same day of her funeral and the tragic irony is there are not much older than she was. Shooter Ward is only 18 years old and this is not his first tangle with the law. This time however, he took a young girl's promising life away in the blink of an eye and the blast of cold steel--as this sick cycle of violence continues.
Police Chief McCarthy made a point of announcing that the community didn't help him find the alleged shooters but what did he expect? When witnesses squeal on the mob, they are put in witness protection program. Chicago families want an end to the killings in their neighborhood but they also want to stay alive. They are gripped with fear of retaliation from the gangs who keep the reign of terror ongoing--so police should expect reticence to divulge information. Who is going to protect them if they talk? There is no witness protection program for them.
Young Pendleton understood all too well what gun violence could do and was just an adolescent when she spoke out against the very thing that ended her short life---gang warfare--a war that have claimed over 545 lives in a mere 14 months in that city. She was number 42 for 2013, and this shocking statistic has gone virtually unnoticed with no decisive action from our leaders in this country.
Obama is rumored to be going to Chicago on Friday. It's a start, late but not too late to change the genocide-like existence in his city. Incidentally Pendleton was killed not far from his Kenwood residence.
When he visited the grieving town of Newtown last December, he said that the slaughter of those 20 innocent children was unbearable, for he was a father to daughters. Let's see him think of Chicago's children being gunned down regularly, as his children too.
To read my additional articles on Hayida's death, click links below and click links within above article for references.