Michelle Obama To Attend Slain Chicago Girl's Funeral

by
Reuters
First lady Michelle Obama on Saturday will attend the funeral of a Chicago girl whose slaying days after she performed at the presidential inauguration in Washington added to the heightened national attention to the toll from gun violence.

Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama on Saturday will attend the funeral of a Chicago girl whose slaying days after she performed at the presidential inauguration in Washington added to the heightened national attention to the toll from gun violence.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was fatally shot on January 29 as she and her friends shielded themselves from rain under a canopy in a Chicago park in what police say was a case of mistaken identity in a gang turf war.

Pendleton, a sophomore at Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep, had performed with her school band eight days earlier at President Barack Obama's inauguration. A $40,000 reward has been offered in the case.

The first lady, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who is from Chicago, and other Obama Administration officials plan to attend Pendleton's funeral at Greater Harvest Baptist Church.

A "We the People" petition on the White House website signed by more than 1,000 people called on the president and his family to attend Pendleton's funeral. The first family's home is about a mile from the park where Pendleton was killed.

Pendleton's death follows a massacre of 20 first graders and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school in December that inspired an intense U.S. debate about the easy availability of guns. In response, Obama has called for new restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Hundreds of mourners stood in long lines on Friday to pay their respects to Pendleton at a Chicago funeral home. One was her former basketball coach, Bryan King.

"She had this beautiful smile. She was a 'girly-girl,' but you wouldn't believe that she would be as strong and tough as she was," King said. "She was one of the few girls who really jumped for rebounds."

Other mourners knew Pendleton as a majorette who had performed at the inauguration and as a volleyball player.

"Hadiya Pendleton's death was unfortunate since we lost ... a promising life of a talented young girl," said Jourdan Sorrell, president of the 100 Black Men of Chicago, a mentoring organization for black students.

Her death "points out a bigger issue of how Chicago and the U.S. need to address youth-violence prevention," Sorrell said.

Pendleton's killing spurred calls from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and the families of murder victims for Obama to address the gun violence in Chicago, his hometown and the third largest city in the United States.

There were 506 homicides last year in Chicago, a 17 percent increase from the prior year, and 42 more victims in January, including Pendleton.