A Cook County (Chicago) Circuit Court judge has denied bail for the two men now charged with first-degree murder in Hadiya Pendleton's death. They are 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams.
The Huffington Post has revealed chilling new details about the Jan. 29 murder of the Chicago teenager and honor student. Two young men cruised around a park on Chicago's South Side searching for rival gang members. After parking in a nearby alley, one of them jumped a short fence surrounding the park and sneaked up behind Pendleton and her fellow students huddled under a canopy as they tried to avoid an increasingly heavy rainfall.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Williams' attorney denied that he was a gang member. Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Sexton countered with the dirty details of Hadiya’s last moments on this earth. Most of those details, enumerated below, she said, were provided by the young men themselves. The bottom line, Sexton argued, is that these two young men were on “the hunt” – the hunt for rival gang members; that Hadiya Pendelton and the other two victims were “just there” and not meant or intended to be hurt.
Indeed, the Chicago Police Department, according to the Chicago Tribune, has said in no uncertain terms, that no one in Pendleton's group was in any way associated with a gang or criminal activity of any type.
Hadiya’s murder is just one of a record number of homicides in Chicago already this year; but her particular murder has exponentially ratcheted up Chicago’s and the nation’s angst and anger over these heretofore “under the radar” killings.
Why Hadiya? Mainly because of Hadiya’s Obama connection. The drum majorette had performed at President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities just days before the shooting. And, she was shot and killed within spitting distance from the Obamas’ Chicago home.
Attorney Sexton said that Ward and Williams belonged to the SUWU gang and were trolling the streets near Obama's Chicago home, says the Huffington Post.
Earlier reports indicate that Ward had admitted that the two gangs had been in a low-grade war with each other since at least 2010. Further, he was still seething over the 4-6 Terror gang’s shooting and killing of another friend, Sexton said. Thus, when he got out of the car he was handed a gun by Williams, who police said, had himself been shot in the arm by a member of a rival gang only six months earlier. She was specific before the judge:
"Defendant Ward admitted he snuck up on the group and they didn't see him coming," Sexton said. He fired at least six times,” she told the judge, as reported by the Huffington Post. One bullet struck a 17-year-old in the left ankle, and another grazed the left foot of another 17-year-old.
Pendleton was hit in the upper back.
"She was able to make it outside of the park and then collapsed on the street," Sexton said. She died in nearby University of Chicago’s Children’s Hospital later that day.
According to the Tribune, Ward then ran back to the car, and the two drove off, the prosecutor said. Police placed them at the scene through cell phone records and surveillance videos. The videos showed Ward's mother's white Nissan driving back and forth near and around the park.
Ward confessed to his role in the shooting in videotaped interviews. Williams confessed "to a third party witness," State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said later. She would not explain exactly what that means.
First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral Saturday, and her parents are tonight guests of the first lady at the president’s state of the union speech. The president spoke passionately tonight about Hadiya’s murder and gun violence generally.
As a result, Hadiya has become not just a martyr but a symbol of the cost of gun and gang violence.
"Defendant Ward admitted that the girl, now known as Hadiya Pendleton, had nothing to do with it," Sexton said in court. As reported by the Tribune, "She was just there."
The Huffington Post reports that Ward's attorney, Jeff Granich, argued that Ward is himself a victim of all of this attention and pressure to quickly close the case.
"The problem when criminal cases get made into political cases ... rules are bent and mistakes are made," he said. For example, Ward said, his client asked repeatedly over a 48-hour period to talk to a lawyer. However, "during that time those requests were ignored by the Chicago Police Department."
Williams' attorney, Matthew McQuaid, said Williams was not a gang member and that he seriously doubted that any admission of guilt was proffered.
"The question of whether Mr. Williams made any kind of statement, I think, is in question," said McQuaid, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Surprisingly, McQuaid indicated also that Williams is a high school graduate who lives with his family and actually has a job. Indeed, he works at an air courier service at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
Williams' only run-in with the law was on a retail theft charge "for which he received supervision," McQuaid said, according to the Sun-Times.
The “no bond” ruling by the judge in this case is more than appropriate. These men, and they are men, are typical of far too many young black males in Chicago. I recall during the late 1980s when crack cocaine reached epidemic status on Chicago's streets. Breathless, dire warnings were made then as “crack babies” were being born (newborns addicted to cocaine at birth). These children, many social workers and sociologists argued, would one day become a new, more aggressive, conscience-less and soul-less kind of “super predator.”
I pooh-poohed such talk and thinking -- even considered it “racist” on its face. But, I’m sorry. I was wrong. As a lifelong resident of this great city, for the first time, I must think twice, or three times, hard, before making a simple trip into the streets in search of a loaf of bread or before doing any other heretofore mundane errand.
And I am not alone. Jesse Jackson himself said that once while walking down the street alone, he heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw that it was a white man. He said he felt “relieved” that it was not a young black man sneaking up to do harm.
Now, I do not know, or care really, whether the cause of these murders is drugs, gangs, poverty, bad schools, fatherlessness – or all of the above. I do know, however, that whatever the reason, this dynamic must change, must be changed by us, the adults.
And this behavior has entered into yet another generation of black males. At a family gathering this past weekend, my female cousin’s “fatherless” 5-year-old son threw a raging temper tantrum because we, the adults, did not want to continue watching “his” cartoons on television. (There were two other TVs in the apartment). The boy demanded that we watch what he wanted to watch, and would not take “no” for an answer. My cousin’s, his mother’s, tepid response? “Well, okay. For 10 more minutes. Then the grownups get to watch TV.”
If this boy is controlling his mother at 5-years old, what will he be like at 15? 20? 25? He will not be merely a "super predator." He is a “mega-predator” in the making.