South Side high school mourns loss of student

January 30, 2013

Students trickled into King College Prep High School on the South Side Wednesday morning—some in tears, others seemingly in shock.

Grief counselors and extra security moved about the lobby, comforting crying students.

King sophomore Hadiya Pendleton, 15, died Tuesday night after being shot in a park a few blocks from the selective enrollment school.

Pendleton’s death came amid a flurry of violence across the city on an unseasonably warm Tuesday. 

Outside the school Wednesday, student Johnathan Hemphio said he had just found out about Pendleton’s death on his way to school. 

“I can’t believe what happened,” Hemphio said. “She was such a nice girl. I was sitting right next to her last week.”

Hemphio said he had chemistry and lunch with Pendleton and described her as well-liked and not involved in “any type of gang activity.”

Police say Pendleton was hanging out with a group of friends after school at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on 46th and Oakenwald, when a man ran up and opened fire on the group. A 16-year-old boy was also wounded in the leg and taken to the hospital.

Students were let out of school at 1 p.m. yesterday because King is in the middle of final exams. The shooting took place shortly after 2 p.m. A spokeswoman for Chicago Public Schools said a crisis team had been dispatched to the school and final exams were cancelled Wednesday.

In a news conference, Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy announced an $11,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information that leads to the arrest of the shooter. He also said the police will do everything to make the community safe.

“Anybody who thinks this territory belongs to a gang is wrong,” McCarthy said. “If I have to put a policeman here 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365, we’re going to make a point that this territory belongs to the community.”

Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, also spoke at the news conference.

“There’s not a whole lot to say,” the elder Pendleton said. “Just look at yourself and know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a non-violent person…. She was destined for great things and you stripped that from her.”

Pendleton was involved in a number of activities at school, including the marching band, and was at President Obama’s inauguration last week.