CHICAGO Hundreds of people lined up Saturday outside a filled-to-capacity church to pay their respects to a 15-year-old Chicago teen whose death has drawn national attention to the staggering gun violence in the nation’s third-largest city.
Inside the church on Chicago’s South Side, mourners filed past Hadiya Pendleton’s open casket, which was partially covered with flowers. A woman who walked in with the girl’s family wailed loudly while organ and piano music played.
The funeral service was to be attended by first lady Michelle Obama and some of Illinois’ most recognizable politicians and clergy. But Pendleton’s family said her Saturday funeral service won’t be about politics — it will be about remembering a girl who loved to dance, who once appeared in an anti-gang video and who died just days after performing at one of President Barack Obama’s inauguration events.
“Everything is about Hadiya,” said Shatira Wilks, one of Pendleton’s cousins and a family spokeswoman.
None of the dignitaries was slated to speak during the service. The teen’s pastor and brother will talk, and the musical group Pendleton was a member of will perform.
Pendleton was shot and killed while she talked with friends after school at a park not far from the Obamas’ home in the Kenwood neighborhood. Police have said the Jan. 29 shooting appears to be a case of mistaken identity involving gang members who believed the park was their territory. Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim. No charges have been filed.
Pendleton’s death brought new attention to Chicago’s homicide rate and the national debate over gun violence. Pendleton’s slaying came in a January that was the city’s deadliest in a decade. In 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.
Inside the church Saturday, photos from the honor student’s life were projected on a screen at the front of the sanctuary. One shows her as a newborn swaddled in a pink bassinet. In others, she is smiling alongside family and friends.
Others expected to attend the service are Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — all of whom are from Chicago.
Quinn mentioned Pendleton’s death in his State of the State address earlier this week as he called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.