Violence ends the life of a 15-year-old majorette and volleyball player.
CHICAGO — The latest victim of gun violence on the embattled streets of Chicago is a high school majorette and volleyball player who last week was performing at events for President Obama's inauguration.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama said Wednesday they are praying for the family of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"It's a terrible tragedy," Carney said. "We see it far too often."
Hadiya and some friends were hanging out Tuesday afternoon at a park frequented by gangs near King College Prep, where Hadiya was a sophomore. Police say a group of 10 to 12 teens had taken shelter under a canopy during a rainstorm when someone jumped a fence, ran toward the group and opened fire.
A boy, 16, also was shot and was hospitalized in serious condition. The Chicago Tribune reports that most of the people in the park were gang members and that other kids in Hadiya's group were not cooperating with officers. Police say Pendleton does not have an arrest history and there's no indication she was part of a gang.
Hadiya was a majorette and a volleyball player. She performed with other King College students at the inaugural events in Washington, D.C., last week.
Hadiya was "a great, great wonderful young lady — a walking angel," says her adult cousin Shatira Wilks.
"She was very athletic, played a lot of sports" and was a majorette and cheerleader, Wilks says. Her participation in the inauguration "was huge," she says, "but not as huge as being scheduled to go to Paris this summer."
The girl's family, including her 10-year-old brother, Nathaniel, is not handling her death well, Wilks says. She says Hadiya was not involved in gangs and her neighborhood "is not a bad area."
"These kinds of things just happen in cities where the gun laws just need to be modified," Wilks says. "I think if people play a role in raising their children correctly, this kind of thing won't happen."
Hadiya's death is another tragedy for a city in a pitched battle with gangs and murder. Driven by gangs, drugs and guns, the city's 2012 murder count of 506 topped even New York City, which has three times the population of Chicago.
Chicago has had 42 homicides so far in 2013, the most at this point in a year since 2002, says police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hadiya's parents Wednesday and later told reporters, "Nothing pains you more than calling a fellow parent, trying to comfort them."
Emanuel, a Democrat who is pressing for tougher gun laws, encouraged anyone with information about the murder to come forward.
"She had dreams," he said of Pendleton. "And this gang-banger, this punk, took that away."