Chicago police may be getting closer to getting justice for Hadiya Pendleton: two alleged gang members have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of the 15-year-old honor student whose senseless killing compelled President Obama to add inner city gun violence to his national gun reform debate.
Police allege Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, mistook Hadiya and her friends for members of a rival gang and shot at the group in retaliation for a summer shooting that left Williams injured. Hadiya, who’d been seeking shelter from the rain under a park canopy with friends, was shot in the back as she ran from the gunfire; she died later after collapsing near President Obama’s family home on Chicago’s South Side. Two others were injured.
Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that Ward confessed and told police that Hadiya, a popular high school majorette, was not the intended target. Williams, who refused to cooperate with police when he was shot in the arm in July, drove the getaway car after the Jan. 29 park shooting. “They got it all wrong,” McCarthy told The Associated Press.
The two were arrested late Saturday night while they were on their way to a strip club—hours after First Lady Michelle Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn attended Hadiya’s funeral. McCarthy noted that Ward was arrested in January 2011 on a gun charge but he received probation after pleading guilty to unlawful use of a weapon. Police tracked them down after matching the description of the car in which the shooter fled to a car Williams had been driving when he was pulled over a day before the shootings.
Hadiya’s death was one of more than 40 homicides in Chicago in January—a total that made it the deadliest January in the city in eleven years. However, her death attracted national attention just as President Obama, compelled by the deaths of 20 children in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, trained his sites on reforming America’s gun laws. After a petition by The Black Youth Project attracted some 45,000 signatures and black leaders, columnists and blogs (MyBrownBaby included) begged President Obama to add inner city gun violence to his gun reform agenda, he asked Mrs. Obama to attend the funeral and arranged for Hadiya’s parents to sit next to her at tonight’s State of the Union speech. President Obama also is scheduled to go to Chicago later this week to discuss gun violence in his home city, where hundreds of black children have fallen victim to guns.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel yesterday made the point that we here at MyBrownBaby have been making since news of Hadiya’s death tore at the very core of our hearts: while the Newtown massacre rightfully inspired passion for gun reform, what happens to black children in urban areas “gets put in a different value system,” he said.
“The only time when the gun issue ever gets affected is when Newtown happens,” Emanuel added. “What happens in urban areas around the country too often … gets put to the side… These are our kids. These are our children.”
As police work to put behind bars the two men charged in Hadiya Pendleton’s murder, Emanuel is working with McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to push for tougher gun laws that would increase minimum sentences for gun offenders and require them to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Currently, Chicago law allows offenders to be released sometimes after only a matter of weeks. Here’s to justice for Hadiya and the hundreds of African American children just like her, caught in the crosshairs of ineffective legislation and apathetic, dangerous criminals who solve their problems with bullets rather than common sense and respect for our children.
1. If Newtown Shootings Showed Us Anything, It’s That Guns Kill People and It’s Time For Reform
2. Kudos to New York for Putting Safety above Politics with Gun Control Measures
3. Hadiya Pendleton: Chicago Gun Violence Takes Star Teen From Inauguration To the Mortuary
4. Behind Jet Magazine’s Jordan Davis Cover: A Courageous Stand For Justice