Two Chicago men have pleaded not guilty in the death of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton who was gunned down on the city’s South Side just one week after performing at President Obama‘s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.
On Thursday, Michael Ward (18) and Kenneth Williams (20) plead not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder for the Jan. 29 shooting that claimed the life of the King College Prep honors student. Both men were also charged with aggravated battery with a firearm when taken into custody in February.
Pendleton was fatally shot while huddling with a group of friends under a canopy at a local park during a rainstorm after an early dismissal from school. That’s when witnesses said a man hopped a fence, opened fire on the group– striking Pendleton in the back– and then fled the scene.
The incident happened just blocks from her school and about a mile from the president’s Chicago home. The young girl’s funeral was held on Feb. 9 and attended by First Lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries.
Police said Ward and Williams mistook Pendleton and her friends as rival gang members who had injured one of them in a previous shooting over the summer. According to authorities, neither the victim nor her friends were affiliated with gangs.
Ward and Williams have been denied bond.
Coincidentally, it was announced Thursday that the FLOTUS will travel to Chicago on April 10 to join Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Allstate Corporation President Thomas J. Wilson and Loop Capital CEO James Reynolds, Jr. to discuss youth violence.