The death of Haydia Pendleton, a 15-year old Bronzville area high school student last week captured national news headlines with reactions from a U.S. government official as gun violence claimed more lives.
Speaking at a recent U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill), mentioned the young student’s death as he argued for more to be done to stop gun crimes.
“She was an honor student and a majorette,” Durbin said. “Performing at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events last week “was the highlight of her young, 15-year-old life,” he said.
Pendleton, of 4412 S. Indiana Ave. was hanging out with a group of about 10 to 12 other teens in a park near her school last Tuesday afternoon at about 2:30 p.m. after taking her final exams at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep, when a man allegedly jumped a nearby fence and opened fire, causing the teens to scatter, according to Chicago police.
“The girl was struck in the back,” Chicago Police Officer, Jose Estrada said, providing information on how the tragic event played out. “The young male who was shot (once in the leg) was listed in serious condition (at Comer Children’s Hospital in Hyde Park).
“No one is in custody,” Estrada said.
Students at King recently complained they were not allowed to remain in the school before and after school hours and staged a sit-in last month to call attention to that and other school policies implemented by new principal Shontae Higginbottom.
Marille Sainvilus, a spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools said, “Students are allowed in the school building to wait for parents and to take part in after school programs and activities. They just can’t loiter,” she said. “There has been some recent dialogue between the principal and students.”
Sainvilus also said grief counselors were provided for both staff and students regarding Pendleton’s death.
Pendleton’s tragic death sparked nationwide discussions on how best to handle Chicago’s gun violence and also led to a petition being filed on the White House website with signatures from various parts of the U.S. asking for President Barack Obama’s attendance at Pendleton’s funeral. The petition as of a Feb. 4 had 836 of the 100,000 signatures needed for an official response.
Pendleton’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley, recently appeared on the Rev. Al Sharpton’s television program to raise awareness about her daughter’s death.
“She was amazing…she had a major heart. She was quirky, she loved to laugh, she loved her brother, she was an avid reader, she very much loved volleyball and being a majorette, she loved life,” Cowley said. “And she was a true teenager, just a kid, and she didn’t want to be anything more than she was – and that was just 15.”
A public viewing for Pendleton will be held from 2 to 9 p.m., Feb. 8 at Calahan Funeral Home, at 7030 S. Halsted St. Visitation for the teen is set for Saturday at 9 a.m. followed by her funeral at 11 a.m. at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 5141 S. State St.
According to news report, there is a $40,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
Mayor Emanuel and Police Supt. Garry McCarthy addressed questions about gun violence at a press conference last Thursday following Pendleton’s death, announcing the police department is moving 200 officers from administrative duties to the street and will hire 200 replacements for those jobs.
“We should have clerks doing clerical work. We don’t train people to be police officers and have them doing clerical work,” McCarthy said.
The 200 police officers from administrative positions will join existing Area Saturation Teams and focus on preventing gun and gang crimes in a redeployment that comes after multiple audits determined additional administrative responsibilities should be handled by civilians and not sworn personnel.
“Since our first week in office, we have been focused on moving police officers onto the beat and working directly in our communities,” said Mayor Emanuel. “(This) move is another effort to target gangs and guns in particular areas with every officer we have available.”
More officers will be transferred in Feb., and all 200 will be moved from department headquarters and district offices into patrol positions by March 31.
As for the President’s national efforts that critics say does not speak to Chicago’s gun violence, he plans to strengthen background check systems for gun sales; pass a stronger ban on assault weapons; limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds; make schools safer with new resource officers and counselors; institute better emergency response plans and ensure quality coverage for mental health treatment, particularly for young people.
By Deborah Bayliss