A 15-year-old Chicago girl who went to school a mile from President Obama’s house and reportedly came to Washington for the inaugural weekend was shot and killed on Tuesday afternoon, police said.
The girl, whom local reports identified as Hadiya Pendleton, died when a gunman opened fire on her and about a dozen other teenagers while they were hanging out at a park in Chicago, according to Chicago Police officer Jose Estrada. An honors student, according to family members, rthe sophomore had finished exams at Dr. Martin Luther King College Prep and went to the nearby park.
For Obama, the shooting hits home at a time when he is pushing Congress to enact stricter gun laws that he says would curb not only mass shootings but also everyday gun violence in cities such as his home town of Chicago. So far this year, 42 have been killed, making the month the most deadly January in the city in more than 10 years.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the “thoughts and prayers” of President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were with Pendleton’s family. He also reiterated the Obama administration’s position that those in Washington “have an obligation to try” to forge bipartisan agreement on gun control if it means that even one life can be saved.
“Well, it’s a terrible tragedy — anytime a young person is struck down with so much of their life ahead of them, and we see it far too often.... The president has more than once when he talks about gun violence in America referred not just to the horror of Newtown or Aurora or Virginia Tech or Oak Creek but to shootings on the corner in Chicago or other parts of the country,” Carney said. “And this is just another example of the problem that we need to deal with.”
Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) mentioned Pendleton as he began questioning witnesses at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the issue of gun violence. He noted that Pendleton had marched in the inaugural parade last week. “It was the highlight of her young life,” he said.
“Just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life, she’s gone,” Durbin said.
Several media outlets, including The Washington Post, reported that Pendleton, who relatives said was a majorette and volleyball player, had performed in the inaugural parade, with King College Prep’s band. But the band, which marched in the president’s first inaugural, did not perform this time.
Durbin relied on a local Chicago television station report in making his remarks, said an aide.
Addressing the gun violence epidemic in Chicago, Durbin said the biggest problem is that the city is “awash in guns.”
“The confiscation of guns per capita in Chicago is six times the number in New York City,” Durbin said. “We have guns everywhere, and some believe the solution to this is more guns. I disagree. When you take a look at where these guns come from, 45 percent plus are sold in the surrounding towns around Chicago, not in the city.”
Estrada, in an interview with The Washington Post, would not identify the victim, citing department policies.
Estrada said the shooting occurred about 2:20 p.m. Tuesday. A group of 10 to 12 young people were hanging out under a canopy in a park, trying to avoid the rain, when a man jumped over a fence and ran toward them with a gun, he said.
When the suspect opened fire, the group scattered, he said. The suspect quickly fled. Several of the young people gathered at the park had ties to area gangs, Estrada said, although Hadiya did not. He said the investigation is ongoing.
“By all indications, it appears the female victim was an unintended target in this incident,” Estrada said.
Estrada said there were two other victims — a 17-year-old male who was shot in the leg and is in stable condition, and another 17-year-old male who had a graze wound to his left foot and has been released from the hospital.
Ed O’Keefe and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.