A 15-year-old girl was fatally shot in another heartbreaking random act of violence at a park in Chicago on Tuesday, just one week after performing at President Barack Obama's inauguration on "the happiest day of her life."
Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student, marching-band majorette and big sister, was walking in the park with her volleyball teammates when it began to rain. The group of teens rushed under a canopy for cover when a gunman ran out from an alley behind the park and fired at the kids before jumping into a waiting vehicle and speeding off. The 15-year-old girl was shot in the upper back and another girl was struck in the leg. They ran about a block before Pendleton collapsed. She died at the hospital.
“She was a very active kid, doing dance, cheerleading, who felt like she could accomplish just about anything, a very good student who had big dreams about what she wanted to be, a doctor, an attorney,” Damon Stewart, the girl's godfather, said. “She was constantly getting good grades.”
Pendleton's mother, Cleo Cowley, said her daughter's marching-band was invited to a band competition that was a part of the inauguration. She was so excited for the event, she told her mother she was even thinking about getting into politics as a profession.
“She was extremely excited about it, to go there and witness history and perform at the Capitol. She told me, ‘Mom, I might think about getting involved in politics,’” Cowley said.
The news of the teenager's death fueled the running debates over gun-control that took place on Wednesday. Pendleton's murder marks number 42 in one of Chicago's bloodiest January's in more than a decade.
The girl's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, spoke of her passing.
“He took the light of my life,” he said. He then spoke to the killer: “Look at yourself, just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person.”
An arrest has yet to be made.