Friends who witnessed the random gunning down of a 15-year-old Chicago girl less than a week after she performed at President Obama’s inauguration continue to grapple with the senseless loss of the prep school honors student.
“She was honestly like the happiest person I know and I don't know, like, how to cope with this because it shouldn't have been her,” an emotional Klyn Jones said of her friend, Hadiya Pendleton. “It shouldn't have been anyone but especially not her.”
Pendleton was killed Tuesday afternoon in a quiet south-side neighborhood less than a mile from Obama’s Chicago home. She was huddling with Jones and other friends under a canopy to escape the rain when an unidentified gunman came at them, opened fire, and then escaped the scene in a car.
“We were all running because we heard the gunshots and then she stopped and she was like, ‘I think I got shot.’ And I was like, ‘Hadiya, please stop joking,’” Jones said. “She was like 'No seriously, Klyn, I think I got shot' and she just fell. And then time just like started moving in slow motion.”
Police say Pendleton, who died shortly later at a hospital, was shot in the back. A teenage boy remains in serious condition. An $11,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the girl's killer.
Pendleton, a sophomore at a selective Chicago prep school, had been in Washington a week earlier to perform in a marching band competition that was part of the inaugural festivities.
“It just hurts,” said her father, Nate Pendleton. “To know another good one is gone.”
Friends posted pictures of Pendleton and paid tribute to her on a Facebook memorial page created Wednesday that had accumulated more than 15,000 ‘likes’ in less than 24 hours. One photo posted to the page featured Pendleton’s younger brother being consoled as tears run down his face.
“VERY HEARTBREAKING! Please keep the family in your prayers tonight," the caption read.
Community members called for a stop to the violence.
"The tears in this family, the pain etched in their face, it's unacceptable to everybody in Chicago," said Rev. Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s St. Sabina Church. “This is Sandy Hook. This is Connecticut. This is Newtown right here. And we have to be just as outraged."
Police, who believe Pendleton may have been shot with a revolver, say no arrests have been made in the case.
Outrage over Pendleton’s death grew as lawmakers in Washington debate gun control and Chicago struggles to suppress the a rising homicide count and growing gun violence, including six people shot Wednesday night, according to the Chicago Tribune.