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Prosecutor: Chicago gang war led to teen's death

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 12, 2013 at 5:23 pm •  Published: February 12, 2013
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CHICAGO (AP) — Two men circled a park on Chicago's South Side looking for members of a rival gang before one crept up on a group seeking shelter from the rain under a canopy and opened fire, striking a 15-year-old honor student who once made a video protesting gang violence, prosecutors said Tuesday.

New details about the death of Hadiya Pendleton emerged during a court hearing in which a judge denied bail for the two men charged with murder in her death, 18-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams.

Williams' attorney denied that his client was a gang member, but Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer Sexton laid out in sometimes chilling detail — much of it, she said, provided by the defendants themselves — of a hunt for rival gang members that ended with a deadly case of mistaken identity.

Authorities have said no one in Pendleton's group was affiliated with a gang. Her death is one of dozens of homicides in Chicago already this year but has drawn national attention in part because the drum majorette performed as President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities just days before the shooting.

Sexton said Ward and Williams belonged to the SUWU gang and were trolling the streets about a mile from Obama's Chicago home on Jan. 29, looking for members of a rival 4-6 Terror gang. They saw Pendleton and her friends huddled under the canopy about 2 p.m., mistook them for members of the other gang and pulled over in an alley, she said.

Ward told police the two gangs had been shooting at each other since 2010, and he was angry with the 4-6 Terror gang for shooting and killing a friend of his, Sexton said. He hopped out of the car and was handed a gun by Williams, who police said had been shot in the arm by a member of a rival gang just six months earlier, she said.

"Defendant Ward admitted he snuck up on the group and they didn't see him coming," Sexton said. He fired at least six times, she told the judge. One bullet struck a 17-year-old in the left ankle, and another grazed the left foot of another 17-year-old.

Pendleton was hit in the upper back.

"She was able to make it outside of the park and then collapsed on the street," Sexton said. The teen died later that day.

Ward ran back to the car, where Williams was waiting, and the two drove off, the prosecutor said. Police tied the two to the shooting with cellphone records that placed Williams near the park at the time, and surveillance video showing Ward's mother's white Nissan driving back and forth by the park.

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