Two men have been charged with the murder of Hadiya Pendleton, the Chicago teen who was shot and killed shortly after performing at President Obama’s inauguration.
Eighteen-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams are charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm. The charges came a day after police announced that they had questioned two persons of interest in the case.
According to the Chicago Tribune, both men are reputed gang members and targeted 15-year-old Pendleton and two other teens because they believed they were members of a rival gang. Ward told police the shooting was in retaliation for Williams being shot on July 11, 2012, near Pershing Road and Lake Park Avenue. Williams, however, declined to sign a complaint against the suspects in his shooting.
Hadiya Pendleton was fatally shot on January 29, just over a week after she performed with the King College Prep band at President Obama’s inauguration on January 21. She was at a park about a mile from President Obama’s home on the South Side with a volleyball team when she was killed. Another girl and a boy were also shot but survived.
Pendleton’s father, Nathaniel, said the news of Ward and Williams’ arrest brought a “legitimate” smile to his face for the first time since his daughter was killed.
“I’m ecstatic that they found the two guys,” Pendleton said. “(I’m) thanking God that these two guys are off the streets, so that this doesn’t happen to another innocent person.”
However, Pendleton said he and the family wouldn’t have full closure until after the two were convicted. “Right now, I can say to you that the healing can start,” he said.
Shatira Wilks, one of Hadiya Pendleton’s cousins and the family’s spokesperson, told Anderson Cooper, “(Hadiya) is the face of every parent’s dream child. Hadiya had so many different things awaiting her in life. She was a wonderful, wonderful kid. My little cousin really was an angel.”
Williams and Ward are scheduled to make their first court appearance Tuesday.