Skip to main content

Obama will highlight Chicago girl's shooting in State of the Union

By Ben Brumfield, Steve Almasy and Ted Rowlands, CNN
February 12, 2013 -- Updated 1652 GMT (0052 HKT)
  • Hadiya Pendleton's parents will sit with Michelle Obama at the State of the Union Address
  • The teenager was killed at a playground near the Obamas' Chicago home
  • Hadiya had performed at Obama's second inauguration
  • A ranking Chicago police official is calling for stricter regulations on gun crime

Chicago (CNN) -- Gun violence has inextricably joined Michelle and Barack Obama with a family from their Chicago neighborhood, and the president will give them a place of prominence during Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

Honor student Hadiya Pendleton had performed as a drum majorette at an event during President Obama's second inauguration in Washington and was gunned down days later.

The presence of her father, Nathaniel, and mother, Cleopatra, sitting by the first lady's side, will be no coincidence and part of the president's message to the nation.

In his address, Obama will renew his support for the gun proposals he's already endorsed, including a ban on military-style assault weapons and bolstering background checks, officials have said.

Pendleton's alleged killers -- both of them gang members -- will appear in court for the first time Tuesday morning in Chicago, police there said. One of them confessed Monday, saying he mistook Pendleton and her friends for someone else.

Code of silence in Chicago murders
First lady attends teen's funeral
National politics cloud teen's funeral

The honor student was openly opposed to gang membership, taking to Twitter to discourage her followers from joining.

She was 15 when she died after being shot in the back at a playground in late January, in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, not far from the Obama family home.

The first lady attended her funeral.

The president will visit Chicago Friday to talk about gun violence in the wake of 500 shooting deaths in his home town in 2012. Pendleton was the 42nd victim shot dead in the city this year.

The killing has prompted a ranking Chicago police official to call for stricter penalties against gun offenses.

Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were each charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.

Ward said he shot Pendleton, when he and Williams were out to get revenge on rival gang members, according to police.

The men had fired upon Williams in July, wounding him in the arm, McCarthy said. When police arrested them, Williams refused to press charges.

Instead he apparently decided to take matters into his own hands and, at best, made a serious error.

"The offenders had it all wrong," McCarthy said. "They thought the group they shot into included members of a rival gang."

Shatira Wilks, one of Hadiya's cousins, said Hadiya was hanging out with a volleyball team -- a group of girls and one boy -- when she was killed.

Williams allegedly drove getaway and waited in a car for Ward, who wielded the gun, McCarthy said.

Police initially received no solid tips on the shooter's identity, but they did get a description of the car, which they were able to link to a traffic stop days before the killing.

That, along with information from parolees, led them to the two men.

Ward surrendered on Saturday night without a struggle, McCarthy said, but Williams tried to escape.

Wilks said the family was elated that the suspects were in jail.

"However there is no level of comfort -- not long-term comfort -- and we are still miserable," she said.

The shooting should not have happened, McCarthy said, openly frustrated with Illinois' gun laws.

Ward was already on parole for a previous gun violation -- unlawful use of a firearm -- when he shot Pendleton, McCarthy said. He thinks he should have been behind bars and not walking around free.

"Michael Ward would not have been on the streets of New York City to commit this act, if it had happened there," McCarthy said.

"This is not about gun control, he said. This is about the criminal justice system being designed to prevent gun violence."

The police superintendent called for mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes. What he wants most are controls surrounding the "loss, theft or transfer of firearms."

President Obama hand-wrote a note to Pendleton's parents, when she died. It was printed on the funeral program and included a promise to take action:

"We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence. God Bless, Barack Obama."

Part of complete coverage on
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1645 GMT (0045 HKT)
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Katie Ray-Jones, the president and acting CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, discuss the lethal mix of domestic violence and guns.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
Gun rights and gun control advocates largely agree there should be restrictions on mentally ill people obtaining firearms. The case of Myron Fletcher illustrates how difficult it is to put that into practice.
April 23, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a wide-ranging gun bill into law Wednesday that has critics howling and proponents applauding.
June 13, 2013 -- Updated 1052 GMT (1852 HKT)
Six months after a gunman burst into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and slaughtered 20 children and killed six others, promises of stricter national gun control laws remain largely unfulfilled.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Next time there's a mass shooting, don't jump to blame the National Rifle Association and lax gun laws. Look first at the shooter and the mental health services he did or didn't get, and the commitment laws in the state where the shooting took place.
June 8, 2013 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
The sign at the door of the Colt factory displays a gun with a slash through it: "No loaded or unauthorized firearms beyond this point." Understandable for workers at a plant, but also a bit ironic, considering one of the largest arsenals in America lies just beyond.
June 8, 2013 -- Updated 1118 GMT (1918 HKT)
Much attention has been paid to the defeat in Congress of proposals to ban assault weapons and expand background checks for firearm purchases.
June 29, 2013 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
Morgan Spurlock's "Inside Man" gives CNN viewers an inside and in-depth look at the issue of firearms -- as viewed from behind the counter of a gun store. Here are five things to know about the debate.
May 5, 2014 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
The Supreme Court continued its recent hands-off approach on gun control, refusing to accept a challenge to New Jersey's restrictions on carrying weapons in public.
April 18, 2013 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
The Senate defeated a compromise plan to expand background checks on firearms sales as well as a proposal to ban some semi-automatic weapons modeled after military assault weapons.
April 12, 2013 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
As Congress grapples with major gun control legislation proposals, brothers and sisters, mothers, fathers and children write about the people they loved and lost to gun violence and how it changed their lives.
April 11, 2013 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
Hear from both sides of the gun debate as opinions clash.
May 1, 2013 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
It was a bit awkward the first time Kate Daggett asked the question.
April 10, 2013 -- Updated 1341 GMT (2141 HKT)
Many Americans and lawmakers are in favor of continuing or expanding background checks on gun purchases, but few understand how the checks work.
April 4, 2013 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Still stinging from the shooting deaths at Sandy Hook, Connecticut lawmakers approved what advocacy groups call the strongest and most comprehensive gun legislation in the nation.
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
It took fewer than five minutes for Adam Lanza to squeeze off 154 rounds, upending life in Newtown, Connecticut, and triggering a renewed national debate over gun control.
Who should get them? Join the gun control debate and share your perspective on CNN iReport.
April 2, 2013 -- Updated 1524 GMT (2324 HKT)
Before having children, she was a firm believer that guns were dangerous. Now this mother of three has a different perspective.
March 19, 2013 -- Updated 2254 GMT (0654 HKT)
In the biggest fight over firearms since December's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, gun-control advocates are poised to notch a victory in an unlikely place.
A former drug addict turned anti-violence crusader, and a man who lost his father in a temple shooting. These are just two of many in the conversation.
February 1, 2013 -- Updated 1822 GMT (0222 HKT)
At a town hall that brought all sides of the gun debate together, was there a consensus? Sort of.
February 5, 2013 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
The federal background check system for gun buyers didn't stop a mentally ill man from buying a gun, which he used to kill his mother.
February 1, 2013 -- Updated 0037 GMT (0837 HKT)
In disputes over the future of gun laws, people espousing different positions often literally don't understand each other.