Hadiya Pendleton's parents to sit with first lady at State of the Union

February 11, 2013

The Associated Press

Updated: 1 p.m.

A White House official says the parents of a Chicago teenager slain just days after performing during President Barack Obama's inauguration will attend his State of the Union speech.

Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot to death Jan. 29 in a park close to the Obama's Chicago home. Police say a gunman hopped a fence and opened fire on a group of young people. She was a majorette with the King College Prep band. Police have said Pendleton was an innocent victim in a gang-related shooting. Her death was among dozens of homicides in Chicago last month, though her background and ties to Obama thrust her death into the national headlines.

First lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya's funeral in Chicago on Saturday. Her parents, Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, will sit with the first lady during Tuesday's speech, which is expected to mention gun violence.

A judge has ordered two gang members charged with Pendleton's murder be held without bail.

Cook County Judge Israel Desierto on Tuesday ordered 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams held.

Ward and Williams were charged Monday with first-degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said Monday night. Both were taken into custody late Saturday while on their way to a strip club — and just hours after first lady Michelle Obama and other dignitaries attended Pendleton's funeral.

Police say the shooters mistook Pendleton and her friends for members of a rival gang and attacked the group in retaliation for a shooting that injured one of them over the summer.

"Ward confessed and indicated Hadiya was not the intended target. They got it all wrong," McCarthy said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he's talked to the Pendleton's Monday about the two young men who were taken into custody over the weekend.

At a news conference, Emanuel said the call was one of several he's made to relatives of Pendleton, adding that most of the other calls were made simply to comfort them.

Meanwhile, Emanuel, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and McCarthy said they'll push for state legislation that increases the minimum sentences for those who violate the state's gun laws.