A 15-year-old majorette who performed at some of President Barack Obama's recent inauguration festivities was shot to death Tuesday, just blocks from her school and about a mile from the president's Chicago home.
Hadiya Pendleton died after she was shot in the back while hanging out with a group of teens in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park, in the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue, at about 2:30 p.m., police said.
The teen belonged to the King College Prep High School band, which performed at several inaugural events in Washington, D.C.
“It was the highlight of her young 15-year-old life,” Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said at a Senate hearing on gun violence. "Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone."
Pendleton had dreams of becoming a pharmacist or a journalist, her aunt told the Chicago Tribune.
"I want everybody in the city of Chicago to know -- you look at her, you look at how she talked about her future -- she took her final exams. She had dreams. And these -- and this gang banger, this punk -- took that away from [her mother] Cleopatra. They took it away from Hadiya. And in my view, they took it away from the city of Chicago," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at an unrelated press event.
The mayor said he spent a part of his morning on the phone with Pendleton's mother and another boy who was wounded in the spray of bullets.
Pendleton was taking shelter from the rain under a canopy, when an unidentified man or boy jumped a fence and ran toward the group and opened fire, police said. The shooter then fled in a vehicle.
No arrests had been made by Wednesday afternoon, and the mayor implored anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.
"If anybody has any information, you are not a snitch. You're a citizen. You're a good citizen in good standing if you help," he said.
The shooting was less than a mile from Obama's home on the 5000 block of South Greenwood Avenue. But that proximity doesn't change the mayor's passion for ending the violence, he said.
"My view is that, as I've said repeatedly, you can't be in Ravenswood, and if something happens in Roseland say, 'It's only in Roseland.' You can't be in Sauganash and say, 'If it happens in South Shore it doesn't affect me," he said. "It's our city. These are our children. So while you may say it's a mile from the president's house, my view is it's in the city of Chicago and regardless of where it happens it doesn't matter."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called the shooting a "terrible tragedy" and said Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had been notified.
“The president and first lady's thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton,” he said. "All of our thoughts and prayers are with her family."
Asked about a petition requesting the first family's presence at Pendleton's funeral, Carney said he wasn't aware of it.
Police said Pendleton was not a gang member and was most likely not the shooter’s intended target. But most of the teens with her, who also fled the scene, are believed to be gang members, police said.
Residents of the upscale, white-collar neighborhood were dismayed by the shooting, which some said was a first for their block.
"I was torn apart, shocked. I cried when I heard about it," said resident Robin Hollis, who has lived across the street from the park for about 20 years.
An $11,000 reward was offered Wednesday for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Pendleton's killer.