CHICAGO — As it pushes for national gun control, the White House yesterday addressed a tragic shooting close to President Barack Obama’s home in Chicago.
Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who last week performed at Obama’s inaugural festivities, was killed when a gunman opened fire on a group of students just blocks from King College Prep and about a mile from Obama’s home in Kenwood on the South Side.
Presidential spokesman Jay Carney, asked about Hadiya’s death, said it was a “terrible tragedy” any time a young person is struck down “with so much of their life ahead of them.”
“The president and first lady’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton,” he said. “All of our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
Carney, asked about a petition urging President Barack Obama to attend Pendleton’s funeral, said he was not aware of the petition and had no scheduling announcements to make.
Carney said that when Obama talks about gun violence in America, he is not talking only about Newtown, Conn., or Aurora, Colo., or Oak Creek, Wis., or Virginia Tech — scenes of high-profile mass killings — but to shootings in Chicago and other parts of the country, as well.
He added that while “we may not be able to prevent every act of gun violence ... we need to take action to reduce gun violence” and “make sure that we’re doing everything we can in a responsible way to reduce this violence, to protect our children, including Hadiya Pendleton and others.”
Hadiya’s death also came up at a news conference by Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a particularly violent January in Chicago draws to a close.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called Hadiya “what is best in our city” and urged anyone with information about the slaying to come forward.
“If anybody has any information, you are not a snitch, you’re a citizen,” the mayor said. “You’re a good citizen in good standing if you help.”
The mayor said he talked yesterday morning with Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, “going over what we need to do, what differences we have to do, what other tactics we have to adopt.” He did not say what plans he and McCarthy discussed.
Later, McCarthy appeared with Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, at a news conference to announce that an $11,000 reward was being offered for information leading to arrests of the girl’s killer.
“They took the light of my life,” Pendleton said, fighting back tears. “This guy, whoever he was, the gunman, man you took the light of my life. Just look at yourself and just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person.”
Shaking his head and collecting himself, he continued: “This kid didn’t like violence at all, didn’t even like to fight, avoided a fight, moved away from anything that was not positive. She was a majorette, just came back from the inauguration. She was destined for great things and you stripped that from her.”
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Church on the South Side, said the reward will be “a bounty out on the head of a killer before you kill somebody else.”
“Your butt needs to be in jail,” he said. “Somebody knows ... right now, sitting in their home some young person knows, some young friend of theirs knows, some parent knows, some adult knows. Where are you?”
Pfleger compared Hadiya’s slaying to the mass murder of school children in Newtown, Conn. “We should be just as outraged,” he said.
Hadiya was hanging out with her volleyball team at Harsh Park after taking exams Tuesday afternoon. About a dozen teens had taken shelter under a canopy during a rainstorm when a boy or man jumped a fence in the park, ran toward them and opened fire around 2:20 p.m., police said.
Hadiya was wounded in the back and a 16-year-old boy — also a student at King — was shot in the leg, police said. The attacker got into an auto and fled, police said. No arrests have been reported.