A week after attending presidential inauguration festivities in the nation’s capital and with dreams of a summer trip to Paris swirling in her 15-year-old imagination, Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon in the South Side’s Kenwood neighborhood.
Police say Hadiya was shot in the back at a neighborhood park about 2:30 p.m. in the 4500 block of South Oakenwald. A teen boy was shot in the leg and taken to Comer’s Children’s Hospital in serious condition.
“As usual, the bad guy aims, but he never hits the other bad guy . . . He hits the one that hurts the most to lose,” said Chicago Police Officer Damon Stewart, 36, Hadiya ’s godfather. “I changed her diapers, I played with her growing up. My heart is broken.”
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. The park where she was killed is a little less than a mile from President Barack Obama’s Kenwood home.
Last week, Hadiya went to Washington to see Obama’s ceremonial swearing in with a group of fellow King students, relatives said.
“She went to the inauguration. She was working on some sort of exchange program, where she was going to go to school in Paris,” Stewart said. “She was a great student.”
“Believe it or not, her mom was just looking to move to Naperville,” said Hadiya’s cousin, Shatira Wilks. “Her mom wanted her to take her kids to an even better community and make sure her education is number one. Her daughter has never ever given her mother a problem, this girl was literally a walking angel.”
Police say Hadiya was one of about 12 teens who were hanging out under a canopy at the park to avoid the rain when a man jumped a fence, ran toward the group and opened fire. Everyone scrambled, but Hadiya was hit in the back and died. The gunman got in a car and drove off. Police said Hadiya had no arrest history and doesn’t appear to have been in a gang. But preliminary information indicated that other members of the group she was with were gang members. No one in the group stuck around to help Hadiya or wait for the police. “By all indications the female victim was an unintended target,” a police statement said.
About 50 friends and family gathered for support Tuesday evening at Comer’s Children’s Hospital.
“She’s a huge reader, loves stories and novels and was naturally smart, always on the honor roll,” Wilks said. “She was caught up in the violence of the city.”
Hadiya , who attended grade school at Providence St. Mel, lived in Bronzeville with her mother, father and younger brother, relatives said.
Residents on the block where Hadiya was killed expressed shock.
Robin Hollis, who has lived across the street from the park for about 20 years, said the park has “always been a quiet place.”
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