2 Charged With Murder in Hadiya Pendleton Shooting

After being held and questioned for more than a day, two men on Monday evening were charged in connection with the shooting of a Chicago teen whose death captured headlines around the country.

Michaeil Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were both charged with first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, the honors student who attended President Barack Obama's second inaugural just days before her death.

In addition, Ward, of the 300 block of W. 59th St., and Williams, of the 3900 block of S. Lake Park Ave., were each charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated battery and discharge of a firearm.

Pendleton's parents, in Washington, D.C., to attend the president's State of the Union address Tuesday, said they were "ecstatic" with the charges and promised to follow the case every step of the way.

"Look at what they've done to me and my family. We put so much work into raising my daughter. We had hopes. My son no longer has a big sister. They deserve to feel something that is remotely comparable," Pendleton's mother, Cleopatra Cowley, told NBC News. "But my daughter is dead, and even if they are rotting in jail, they will still be alive."

Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Ward confessed to being the shooter, telling police that Pendleton was not his intended target.

"In fact, the offenders had it all wrong," said McCarthy. "They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang. Instead, it was a group of upstanding and determined kids, who, like Hadiya, were repulsed by the gang lifestyle."

The superintendent said the shooting was in retaliation for a shooting last July that left Williams injured.

Their arrests late Saturday, near 67th Street and South Chicago Avenue, came just hours after First Lady Michelle Obama attended Pendleton's funeral. It also followed the announcement of President Obama's visit to Chicago to address gun violence in the city. 

Pendleton was killed at Kenwood Park on the city's South Side days after she performed at some of President Barack Obama's recent inauguration festivities. She was shot to death blocks from her school and about a mile from the president's and first lady's Chicago home.

McCarthy lamented that the Williams' and Ward's arrest came not as a result of tips from witnesses and the community but rather of good police work.

"I'm sad to point out that we did not get our target audience to step up. The community provided a lot of tips. None of them panned out nor did they lead to closure in this particular case," he said.

McCarthy also expressed sad frustration that Pendleton's death could have been prevented if the state had mandatory minimum sentencing for gun violations. Ward, explained McCarthy, was arrested in 2011 and charged with unlawful use of a firearm. He was sentenced to two years probation.

"When we talk about mandatory minimums, we're talking about saving lives," he said.

Earlier in the day, McCarthy had joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel in calling for longer sentences for illegal gun possession. The mayor called the state's current justice system a "turnstile and a revolving door."

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