The seemingly random killing of a 15-year-old girl who performed last week as a majorette at President Barack Obama's second inauguration is crystallizing anger over this city's high murder rate.
Nathaniel Pendleton, left, hugged family members as he sought help Wednesday in solving the murder of his daughter Hadiya.
The slaying of Hadiya Pendleton, as she stood with friends Tuesday afternoon in a park, came on a day that saw the city's 40th, 41st and 42nd murders of the year, according to police. It continued an uptick in homicides that began last year when more than 500 people were killed. The majority were gang-related shootings on the city's troubled south and west sides.
On Wednesday, Ms. Pendleton's death was raised at a White House news briefing and became the subject of a news conference with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the sophomore honor student "what is best in our city."
Chicago Police have struggled to overcome what they say is an entrenched code of silence that they blame for the low homicide-clearance rate. Mr. Emanuel said: "If anybody has any information, you are not a snitch, you're a citizen. You're a good citizen in good standing if you help."
Tuesday afternoon topped 60 degrees, and Miss Pendleton was with about a dozen friends from her volleyball team at a park when rain forced them under a canopy, said Chicago Police spokesman Joshua Purkiss.
Then a man with a gun jumped a fence surrounding the park and ran at them firing. The group scrambled to get away, and Miss Pendleton--who police say wasn't affiliated with a gang--was shot once in the back and killed, Mr. Purkiss said.
"The area is a hangout for gang members and it is believed the offender mistook the group for gang members and fired at them," Mr. Purkiss said. "By all indications [Miss Pendleton] was an unintended victim." The shooter jumped in a car and drove away. There have been no arrests.
Semiautomatic weapons are banned in the city of Chicago, as are stores that sell guns. But guns are available in neighboring suburbs, and gun violence here goes hand in hand with the city's gang culture and a membership police estimate at 100,000.
At a news conference Tuesday, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said that through the first three weeks of January, officers in two of Chicago's 22 districts seized more illegal guns than were collected in all of New York City in the same period.
This January has been the deadliest in the city since 2002, while 2012 saw the most murders since 2008, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Miss Pendleton's murder comes as lawmakers in Washington debate a ban on semiautomatic weapons following the massacre of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Source: Wall Street Journal | DOUGLAS BELKIN and CAROLINE PORTER