Five days after 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down in a park just a mile from President Barack Obama’s mansion, Chicago religious leaders asked anybody with information about the shooter to talk to police and called for an end to gun violence.
“Nobody needs to allow this killer to feel he can be safe and hide in a house or a neighborhood,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church. “We need to turn him in immediately. A person who shoots once will shoot again. If we don’t turn him in, and there is no question there are a number of people who know, if he shoots again they should be tried for being an accessory to their crime. It’s not about snitching, it’s about life-saving.”
Hadiya was shot in the back around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at a North Kenwood neighborhood park in the 4500 block of South Oakenwald , authorities said.
The shooting happened about three blocks from King College Prep, where Hadiya attended high school, played on the volleyball team and was a majorette with the band. Hadiya went to Washington, D.C., to see Obama’s inauguration with a group of King students, relatives said.
On Sunday, the Rev. Ira Acree dedicated services to Hadiya and told members of the packed Greater St. John Bible Church to help end the violence.
“My heart is extra-heavy today for the more than tragic death of a 15-year-old honor student, Ms. Pendleton,” Acree said.
Acree said the “culture of violence is collaborative failure of multiple institutions” and issues — including guns, illegal drugs, failing schools and poor parenting. Many churchgoers mentioned poor parenting as a primary cause of violence on the West Side.
The Galewood Community Church United Church of Christ asked Austin residents to donate to Shirley Chambers, who recently lost her fourth son to gun violence. The money will go toward the funeral expenses for her son, Ronnie Chambers, 33, who was killed last month on the West Side.
“We need some help. It’s so bad that I don’t even go out. I don’t feel safe,” Rosie Hurns said outside the Greater St. John Bible Church. “They are shooting and killing for nothing.”
On the South Side, Pfleger called for Obama to provide federal resources to combat the violence that is now “a matter of Homeland Security.”
Pfleger said Obama should deliver a major urban policy speech that addresses “the poor schools, unemployment mass incarceration, poverty, guns and violence.”
“Hadiya becomes the wakening tragedy, but we need to realize this is much bigger than her murder,” Pfleger said. “She becomes the lightening rod to recognize the mass murder going on in Chicago and America.”
Police say Hadiya was one of about 12 teens hanging out under a canopy to avoid the rain when a man jumped a park fence, ran toward the group and opened fire. The gunman got in a car and drove off.
“By all indications the female victim was an unintended target,” a police statement said.
Area Central detectives are investigating. There is a $40,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hadiya’s killer. Police confirmed Sunday that no one was in custody for Hadiya’s murder.
“The code of silence has to be broken,” said Melvin Dixmoor, 53, at Greater St. John Bible Church.
Acree said 23 people pledged Sunday to gather 100 signatures asking for anti-assault weapon legislation. Pfleger said a group of clergy has collected more than 45,000 signatures that will be delivered to Springfield later this month.
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