On January 29th, news spread like wildfire that Chicago teen, Hadiya Pendleton, who marched in President Obama’s inaugural parade a mere one week prior, had been gunned down in a Chicago park. This past Saturday, the 15-year-old was laid to rest following her funeral, which was held at Greater Harvest Baptist Church and attended by White House officials Valerie Jarrett, Arne Duncan and First Lady Michelle Obama. Now, only two days after Hadiya’s funeral, two young men have been charged with her murder, reports the Chicago Tribune.
According to police, the fire opened on Hadiya and her friends in the Chicago park on that fateful day, was a result of two gang members seeking revenge. Kenneth Williams, 20 and Michael Ward, 18 were both charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault with a firearm. It appears that Hadiya and her friends were targeted in the shooting because Ward had somehow mistaken one of Hadiya’s friends for a rival gang member who had shot Williams back in July.
“The offenders had it all wrong. They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang. Instead it was a group of upstanding, determined kids who, like Hadiya, were repulsed by the gang lifestyle,” said police Superintendent Gary McCarthy during a press conference.
The two men were arrested by police on the night of Hadiya’s funeral as they were en route to a friend’s birthday celebration at a local strip club.
“I don’t even know what to say about that. They were going out to celebrate at a strip club,” Supt. McCarthy said.
While Ward confessed that he and Williams got out of a car, crept up on the unsuspecting teens in the park, opened fire and then fled the scene, Williams has yet to confess to anything and thus far, police have not recovered the murder weapons. Both men are scheduled to appear in bond court this morning.
Last night, when he learned of the charges being brought against Wald and Williams, Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton expressed how relieved he was that his daughter’s killers were off the streets.
“I’m ecstatic that they found the two guys. (I’m) thanking God that these two guys are off the streets, so that this doesn’t happen to another innocent person,” he told the Tribune during a phone interview.
Jazmine Denise is a news writer for Madame Noire. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise