Eight years ago, Chicago teenager Hadiya Pendleton was killed in a random shootout that caught the attention of then-President Barack Obama and came to define the city’s struggles against human violence. guns and gangs.
His family received a court order on Tuesday: Kenneth Williams, who was convicted in 2018 of first degree murder as a runaway driver in the case, was sentenced to 42 years in prison.
Williams, 29, refused lawyers and chose to represent himself on his conviction, saying he viewed the legal system as illegitimate and said on Tuesday he had been “misjudged,” the Chicago Tribune. A doctor had previously said Williams was competent to represent himself.
“You are responsible for so much sadness, pain and depression,” Hadiya’s mother Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton said in a victim impact statement on Tuesday. “We all had to recreate our lives, learn to breathe, think, communicate and function. This has been hell.”
Williams’ co-accused Micheail Ward was found guilty of firing the gun that hit the girl and sentenced in 2019 to 84 years in prison. Ward, who was 18 at the time of the shooting, was on probation after pleading guilty to a weapons charge a year earlier.
Hadiya was 15 when she was killed. After passing her final exams at King College Prep High School, she took shelter from the rain with other classmates in a nearby park. There, prosecutors said, Ward got out of a car driven by Williams and opened fire, believing he was shooting at rival gang members.
The incident took place about a mile from Obama’s home in the South Chicago neighborhood.
Three weeks before she was killed, Hadiya was part of a team of cheerleaders selected to perform at Obama’s second inauguration festivities.
The teenager’s funeral drew hundreds of people, including then-first lady Michelle Obama.
During Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, the president pointed out that his murder was the reason he was pushing for stricter gun control measures.
“She was 15. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a cheerleader. She was so nice to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend,” Obama said. “Just three weeks ago she was here in Washington with her classmates performing for her country when I was inaugurated. And a week later she was shot and killed in a Chicago park afterwards. school, just a mile from my house. “
Hadiya’s death influenced legislation that bears her name and is reintroduced in Congress by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, DN.Y., and seeks to make arms trafficking across states a federal crime.
Chicago, meanwhile, continues to be rooted in shootings and homicides. An NBC News analysis this month found shootings have increased 59% since the first half of 2019, the most recent comparable period since the start of the pandemic, while homicides so far this year have increased. by 33% compared to the same period in 2019.
The most recent peak in gun violence was in 2016, when 788 homicides were recorded.